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Very little is known about the natural history and ecology of Risso's dolphin in the Pacific Northwest. They are a pelagic species inhabiting waters near the continental shelf, where it is believed they specialize on different cephalopod species (Ford, 2014). They are characterized by their large size and grey to white colouration (often due to scars). During 10 years of our dedicated marine mammal surveys, we have collected hundreds of photographs and detailed notes on their behaviour. Photographs show distinct characteristics in dorsal fin morphology with each individual: fin shape, nicks, and scars. We are now driven to create a photo-identification catalog for individuals sighted in Monterey Bay, California. We also plan to study their foraging and social behaviour.
With so little known about Risso's dolphins, understanding their population ecology and foraging can help set goals and management plans for protecting both the species and it's resources. We believe Monterey Bay, California acts as critical habitat for Risso's dolphins, as the bay serves as one of the largest market squid (Loligo opalescens) fisheries in the Pacific Northwest. Life history parameters will allow us to understand how Risso's dolphins interact with the squid fishery, and how a changing ecosystem with fluctuations in their prey will affect the Monterey Bay food web.