IT seems the sighting of a large pod of pantropical spotted dolphin on edge of the continental shelf off Bermagui is indeed unusual.
It adds to other unusual happenings and encounters of warm water species in the ocean off the Far South Coast of NSW.
Narooma News editor Stan Gorton captured GoPro footage of the large pod of small, acrobatic dolphins on Sunday in the Bunga Canyons area.
Dolphin experts have confirmed the pod is not the common dolphin that is indeed more common, but rather the less frequently encountered pantropical spotted dolphin.
The dolphins have quite different markings than the common dolphin that are often encountered in local waters and also appeared smaller.
Geoff Ross, Marine Fauna Program coordinator at the NSW Department of Environment, viewed the footage and confirmed them as pantropical spotted dolphin.
The dolphins because of their preference for the open ocean had not been recorded that often in NSW and were more often encountered in northern waters.
Department records indicate that over the last 20 years there have only been 10 individuals stranding on the coast, indicating they are relatively rare.
“They could have been following their food and the warm water down,” Ross said.
“Relatively little is known about this species in our waters given its pelagic nature and the fact it is not seen that often.”
The sighting and exact location would now be added to Commonwealth records.
Another dolphin expert who works at the Australian Museum also identified the pod as pantropical spotted dolphin.
“Certainly looks like Pantropical Spotted Dolphin, Stenella attenuata to me,” she wrote. “The distinctive features such as the falcate dorsal fin, dark dorsal cape, grey belly and white lips exclude similar species.”
Regardless of what brought these gregarious and graceful creatures to our coast, we can be grateful they are still here in any numbers at all given the slaughter they have endured.
Pantropical spotted dolphin populations have primarily been assessed in areas where they were extensively hunted or caught in fisheries.
In particular, the offshore spotted dolphins in the eastern tropical Pacific bore the brunt of the large dolphin kills by tuna seiners between the late 1950s and 1980s.
It is estimated that nearly five million dolphins were killed between 1959 and 1972, three million of which were pantropical spotted dolphins, according to the Australian Department of the Environment.
The sighting adds to the long list of warm water and out-of-place marine species being encountered on the Far South Coast of NSW in recent times.
Throw into the unusual list amberjack, green sea turtles, threadfin and other oceanic leatherjacket.
Another green sea turtle was spotted in Narooma inlet on Wednesday evening after another was found in Bermagui two weeks ago.
The warm water species dolphinfish or mahi mahi have also become a regular catch in recent weeks while the local predators of seals and kingfish have also been feasting on clouds of threadfin leatherjackets.
The pantropical spotted dolphin are know to be in the vicinity of yellowfin tuna and there have indeed been a flush of small “jellybean” yellowfin in waters off Narooma and Bermagui in recent weeks.
Indeed there were small yellowfin of around 5kg being caught on trolled skirted lures in the vicinity of the pod on Sunday.
The surface of the ocean was also alive with fleeing sauries or oceanic garfish.
Seeing these small yellowfin or any yellowfin tuna on the Far South Coast is sadly increasingly rare, a far cry from the days only decades ago where monsters were regularly encountered at Montague Island and there was a cannery in Narooma.
The warm water continued this week with charter boats recording water over 25 degrees off the shelf north of Narooma.
In this water, they encountered yellowfin, amberjack and dolphinfish, as well as 178kg blue marlin weighed in at Narooma on Tuesday after it did not survice a 1hour40min battle and could not be released.