Rare Dorset sighting of Risso's dolphin made by local fishermen 5 miles off Chesil Beach

Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) has received a report of a rare Risso’s dolphin sighting off Chesil Beach on Wednesday 8th April by local whelk fisherman Ryan Casey. Risso’s dolphins are rarely seen in the UK close to shore and are mostly found nearer the deep continental shelf in the North Atlantic where they feed on their favourite food squid and octopus.

Ryan said, “I was out on the boat with the crew laying pots, about 5 miles off Chesil Beach, when we saw an odd fin about a quarter of a mile away.  We are experienced fishermen and have spent our lives on the water, so instantly knew this was something unusual.  At first we thought it was a small whale because of the large size, but suddenly it popped up about 10 foot from the boat. It looked like a dolphin, but with a flat stubby nose and scratches all over its body.  We had never seen an animal like this before so knew this was something special”. 

Risso’s dolphin look very different to more commonly known dolphins. They have a tall sickle shaped dorsal fin, stocky body, distinct blunt head and can reach a maximum length of 4m.  The scratches on their body, which can appear white, are believed to be the result of social interactions and catching prey. 

Dorset Wildlife Trust Coastal Centres Manager, Marc Kativu-Smith said, “We were really excited to hear about this extraordinary encounter. There are less than a handful of records of Risso’s dolphin in Dorset. At a time when we are all staying home, it is nice to hear a story from essential workers, that helps remind us of how incredible our marine environment is in Dorset.  Ryan and the crew were incredibly lucky to see such an elusive dolphin.” 

Marc added, “It is not clear why the Risso’s dolphin was in the area, but it is interesting that Ryan had reported there are lots of squid eggs on their pots at the moment.  It is possible the dolphin could have followed the squid inshore while they are breeding.”

Whilst at home you can find out more about the Risso’s dolphin and learn some fun facts about the amazing marine animals we have in Dorset here.  For more wildlife news you can follow Dorset Wildlife Trust on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @dorsetwildlife.  

Risso's dolphin by Niki Clear Manx Wildlife Trust

Risso's dolphin. Photo taken by Niki Clear at Manx Wildlife Trust in 2010.