Injured dolphin rescued from Point Dume shoreline by LA County lifeguards and California Wildlife Center

Dolphin Rescue at Point Dume. Photos by Marine Mammal Rescue

Unfortunately, the dolphin was too severely injured to survive

The Los Angeles County Lifeguards responded Tuesday, Feb. 22, to Point Dume State Beach, where a beached Northern Right Whale dolphin lay injured on a wet, rocky stretch of the beach last Tuesday afternoon.

The lifeguards tweeted, “Yesterday afternoon [Feb. 22], lifeguards responded to Point Dume, where an injured dolphin had come ashore. Lifeguards removed the injured dolphin from the shoreline and put it in their truck…”

In the meantime, the California Wildlife Center (CWC) marine mammal rescue team responded to a report on the same dolphin called in by a concerned citizen. At Point Dume beach, they were met by LA County lifeguards, who already had the distressed dolphin in their truck. The dolphin was then transferred into the CWC rescue vehicle and transported to their facility just outside Malibu city limits (near the intersection of Malibu Canyon Road and Piuma Road).

“The animal’s condition was assessed by the rehab and medical staff, communicating with West Coast Region network partners and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), wrote Heather Henderson, marine program manager. “Examination of the external injuries and diminishing health state led to a poor prognosis for the dolphin, and it was recommended to humanely euthanize.”

On Feb. 23, Lifeguards responded to Point Dume, where an injured dolphin had come ashore. Lifeguards removed the injured dolphin from the shoreline and transferred care to Marine Wildlife Rescue. Photos courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue

“A necropsy was conducted, and external trauma and bleeding to the right side of the head region, particularly the rostrum (snout) and eye, were observed,” Henderson noted. “Tissue samples will be sent out for further examination before an official cause of death is determined.”

The dolphin was identified as a small adult female Northern Right Whale Dolphin, estimated to be about 10 years old.

Henderson told KTLA/5 that dolphins usually only beach themselves when they’re extremely sick or injured. “It’s a very emotional moment when a dolphin comes out on the sand and is clearly ailing,”
She added that “It’s not common for a dolphin to beach itself in Malibu, and while threats to dolphins can include vessel strikes, those aren’t common along the Malibu coast.”

The northern right whale dolphin is a small, slender, and finless species of cetacean found in cold/temperate waters of the Northern hemisphere of the Pacific. They usually travel in groups of 100 to 200 individuals and are the only species of dolphin in the North Pacific Ocean without a dorsal fin. They eat squid, lantern fish, hake, and other fish; and can dive up to 660 feet. They are said to rarely approach boats.

These kinds of dolphins are widely distributed from British Columbia to Baja, California. Although the species has never been commercially targeted, tens of thousands were killed in the 1980s from getting caught in oceanic drift gillnets. Gillnets were banned by the UN in 1993 but remain legal in California until a new law goes into effect in January 2023.

“The California Wildlife Center is the Stranding Agency in Malibu for all distressed marine mammal reports. Our team responds to pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) and cetaceans (dolphins and whales), both living and DOA,” Henderson confirmed. “The marine mammal rescue team also responds to reports of stranded sea turtles and injured marine birds on Malibu beaches.”

Residents or visitors that find a beached marine mammal, bird, or turtle in Malibu should keep a safe distance and call the California Wildlife Center Marine Mammal Response & Rehabilitation direct rescue line at (310)924.7256.