Rare white dolphin seen in Marlborough Sounds

00:22, Sep 01 2009
RARE SIGHT: Experts say a completely white common dolphin photographed by Penzance Bay man Charles Redwood is a "rare find''.
RARE SIGHT: Experts say a completely white common dolphin photographed by Penzance Bay man Charles Redwood is a "rare find''.

A rare, completely white common dolphin has been photographed in the Marlborough Sounds.

Charles Redwood, of Penzance Bay, took photos of the common dolphin in Tennyson Inlet last week after spotting it from his boat. Mr Redwood said during six years of boating in the area he had never seen a completely white dolphin.

The Department of Conservation is warning boaties to be careful around dolphins as there has been an unusually large influx of bottlenose, dusky and some common dolphins in the Sounds.

DOC Sounds area ranger Bill Cash said there had been a "huge increase" of reports of people harassing dolphins, with people even jumping on dolphins from their boats.

Bad weather may have forced dolphins further into the Sounds than usual, he said.

Massey University coastal marine research group marine ecology lecturer Dr Karen Stockin was sent Mr Redwood's photos and said they were an exciting find.

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Ms Stockin did a study on anomalously pigmented common dolphins dolphins coloured differently from the norm in 2005 and said the last all-white common dolphin she had on file was off Cape Brett in the Bay of Islands in 1978.

She said it was not known whether the Cape Brett dolphin or the Marlborough Sounds dolphin was albino, as albino characteristics such as pink eyes had not been observed.

Picton Dolphin Watch Ecotours director and marine biologist Dan Engelhaupt said the white dolphin was rare but not unheard of.

He said common dolphins were not often in the inner Sounds and usually frequented Cook Strait. Bottlenose dolphins had also been in the Sounds since February, which was unusual, though he expected them to disappear once commercial scalloping started.

The Marlborough Express