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At least nine dolphin species (and the spectacled porpoise) have been recorded around the Falkland Islands. However, only a few species occur regularly in coastal waters, with the remainder occupying deep-water habitat. The Falklands are considered a particular stronghold for Peale’s dolphin and Commerson’s dolphin, with the Islands comprising a significant portion of the global range of both species and supporting distinctive populations. Coastal dolphins benefit from an absence of fishing in nearshore waters, which greatly reduces threats (such as accidental capture in nets or prey reduction) to populations in the Falklands compared with other regions.

Peale’s dolphin (Lagenorhynchus australis)

Peale’s dolphins only occur in South American shelf waters (<200m depth), including Chile, Argentina and the Falkland Islands.

They are classified as a Data Deficient species globally. In the Falklands they occupy a range of habitats, including open waters, large bays, and nearshore along the coast, particularly around kelp beds on exposed shores.

Key features include a tall, bi-coloured (paler grey along the rear) dorsal fin, dark face and chin, and a light grey tailstock stripe. Groups most often contain less than 15 animals, but can be larger. They often leap and bow-ride vessels.

Commerson’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii)

Commerson’s dolphins inhabit cool, coastal waters in Chile, Argentina, the Falkland Islands and the Kerguelen Islands.

They are classified as Least Concern globally. The species is easily recognisable by its small size (≤1.5m), rounded dorsal fin, and bold black and white colouration.

They can be found in open, shelf waters, but are most frequently encountered close to shore in inlets, bays, river mouths and in harbours such as Mare Harbour and Port Howard.

They frequently bow-ride boats and surf breaking swell waves. Small groups (<10 animals) are most common, but aggregations of 50-100 animals sometimes occur.

Killer whale (Orcinus orca)

Killer whales are the largest member of the dolphin family (up to 9.8m), and have unmistakeable distinctive black and white colouration, and tall dorsal fins.

Despite being very widespread globally, the species is classified as Data Deficient. Most information on killer whales in the Falkland Islands originates from Sea Lion Island (SLI), where the same individual whales return each year to seasonally prey upon young elephant seals and sea lions.

Killer whales from SLI are also encountered elsewhere in the Islands, suggesting a wider-ranging Falklands community. They are typically observed in small pods of <10 animals.

Other dolphin species

The hourglass dolphin (Lagenorhynchus cruciger) and the long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) are regularly observed in deep water (>200m) areas around the Falkland Islands. Groups of pilot whales sometimes also enter shallower areas, and several mass strandings have been reported. Most hourglass dolphin sightings occur between September and March, while the pilot whale is encountered year-round. Since 2017, a single dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) has been seen several times in association with Peale’s dolphins in Port William, and occasional sightings of this species occur offshore. Most of the remaining dolphin species are uncommon in Falkland waters.



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