Lagenorhynchus albirostris 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Delphinidae

Scientific Name: Lagenorhynchus albirostris
Species Authority: (Gray, 1846)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English White-beaked Dolphin
French Dauphin À Bec Blanc, Lagénorhynque À Bec Blanc De L'Atlantique
Spanish Delfín De Pico Blanco, Delfín De Pico Blanco
Taxonomic Notes: Recent genetic studies suggest that this species is not closely-related to any of the others currently placed in the genus Lagenorhynchus. It is likely that future work will split-out the other species, leaving this one as the only member of the genus Lagenorhynchus (LeDuc et al. 1999, Harlin-Cognato and Honeycutt 2006). Morphological differences have been found between White-beaked Dolphins from the eastern and western Atlantic (Mikkelsen and Lund 1994).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2008-07-01
Assessor(s): Hammond, P.S., Bearzi, G., Bjørge, A., Forney, K.A., Karkzmarski, L., Kasuya, T., Perrin, W.F., Scott, M.D., Wang, J.Y. , Wells, R.S. & Wilson, B.
Reviewer(s): Rojas-Bracho, L. & Smith, B.D.
The species is widespread and abundant (with current population estimates exceeding 100,000) and there have been no reported population declines or major threats identified.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This is the most northerly member of the genus Lagenorhynchus, and it has a wide distribution (Kinze 2002). White-beaked Dolphins inhabit cold temperate to subpolar waters of the North Atlantic, from Cape Cod and France, north to central Davis Strait, southern Greenland, Svalbard, and east to Novaya Zemlya. The range includes Iceland, Faroe Islands, the U.K., and most Scandinavian waters. There are a few extralimital records in the Baltica Sea.

The map shows where the species may occur based on oceanography. The species has not been recorded for all the states within the hypothetical range as shown on the map. States for which confirmed records of the species exist are included in the list of native range states. States within the hypothetical range but for which no confirmed records exist are included in the Presence Uncertain list.
Countries occurrence:
Belgium; Canada; Denmark; Faroe Islands; France; Germany; Greenland; Guernsey; Iceland; Ireland; Isle of Man; Jersey; Netherlands; Norway; Russian Federation; Saint Pierre and Miquelon; Svalbard and Jan Mayen; Sweden; United Kingdom; United States
Estonia; Finland; Latvia; Lithuania; Poland
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – northwest; Atlantic – northeast
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:There are few actual estimates of abundance, but there may be a hundred thousand or more throughout their range (Øien 1996, Reeves et al. 1999).

Published estimates indicate there are at least several thousand White-beaked Dolphins in portions of the north-western Atlantic, shoreward of the 200-m contour between St. Anthony, Newfoundland, and Nain, Labrador (Alling and Whitehead 1987) and in coastal and offshore waters east of Newfoundland and south-east of Labrador. In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, white-beaked dolphins (2,500 in 1995 and 1996) occurred only in the Strait of Belle Isle and the extreme north-eastern Gulf (Kingsley and Reeves 1998).

At least a few thousand white-beaked dolphins inhabit Icelandic waters and up to 100,000 the northeastern Atlantic including the Barents Sea, the eastern part of the Norwegian Sea and the North Sea north of 56°N (Øien 1996). A survey of the North Sea and adjacent waters in 1994 provided an estimate of 7,856 (CV=0.30) white-beaked dolphins (Hammond et al. 2002). In 2005 there were an estimated 22,700 (CV=0.42) in the European Atlantic continental shelf waters, including 10,600 (CV=0.29) in the same area surveyed in 1994. Kinze et al. (1997) maintained that the White-beaked Dolphin is much more common in the North and Baltic Seas than its relative, the Atlantic white-sided dolphin, and Northridge et al. (1997) found that White-beaked Dolphins are relatively common in European waters compared with White-sided Dolphins, or compared with US waters. A 2006 survey in an area from the Georges Bank to the upper Bay of Fundy to the entrance of the Gulf of St. Lawrence estimated 2,003 animals (CV=0.94) (Waring et al. 2008).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:White-beaked Dolphins inhabit continental shelf and offshore waters of the cold temperate to subpolar zones, although there is evidence suggesting that their primary habitat is in waters less than 200 m deep. The species is found widely over the continental shelf, but especially along the shelf edge. A change in habitat use has been documented in U.S. waters, where White-beaked Dolphins were observed primarily on the continental shelf prior to the 1970s, but mainly occurred over slope waters during the 1970s. This shift was associated with changes in finfish abundance and a shift in the distribution of Atlantic White-sided Dolphins, L. acutus (Katona et al. 1993, Kenney et al. 1996).

The ecology of White-beaked Dolphins has received little detailed study (Kinze 2002). They feed on variety of small pelagic schooling fishes but also demersal species (such as cod, haddock, poorcod, bib, hake, and whiting), squid, and crustaceans (Reeves et al. 1999). They sometimes associate, while feeding, with large whales (such as Fin and Humpback Whales), and are known to form mixed groups with a number of other dolphin species (including Bottlenose and Atlantic White-sided Dolphins) (Reeves et al. 1999).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Small-scale hunting takes place in a few countries.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Although not a target of any large commercial fisheries, there has been a long history of small-scale hunting for white-beaked dolphins in some countries, such as Norway, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, and Labrador, mostly for food (Reeves et al. 1999); hunting in some areas continues today (Jefferson et al. 1993), e.g. some hunting continues off the south-west coast of Greenland (Kinze 2002) and opportunistically off the coast of Canada (Lien et al. 2001). During the early 1980s an estimated 366 White-beaked Dolphins were taken annually by the residents of 12 Labrador harbours (Alling and Whitehead 1987).

White-beaked Dolphins are known to be taken incidentally in a range of fishing gear throughout the range of the species (Dong et al. 1996, Reeves et al. 1999). In Norwegian waters where the species is abundant and fishery effort is high, bycatches of white-beaked dolphins are too rare to be detected in fishery operations monitored for marine mammal bycatches (A. Bjørge pers. comm.). In the UK bycatch observer programme, no White-beaked Dolphins have been recorded (S. Northridge pers. comm.). Thus, recent bycatch monitoring programmers support the conclusion of Jefferson et al. (1993) that although known to be occurring, incidental catches are not thought to be high enough to represent a serious threat to this species.

Like other North Atlantic marine mammals, White-beaked Dolphins are contaminated by organochlorines, other anthropogenic compounds and heavy metals (Reeves et al. 1999); although the effects of pollutants are not well understood in this species, they may affect reproduction or render them susceptible to other mortality factors.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is listed in Appendix II of CITES.

Existing direct takes are currently not regulated by any hunting quotas. Although known to occur, bycatch rates seem to be poorly documented and warrant more intensive research. The impact of combined anthropogenic removals should be assessed.

Classifications [top]

10. Marine Oceanic -> 10.1. Marine Oceanic - Epipelagic (0-200m)
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.1. Marine Neritic - Pelagic
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.1. Intentional use: (subsistence/small scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓   National : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Alling, A. K. and Whitehead, H. P. 1987. A preliminary study of the status of White-beaked Dolphins, Lagenorhynchus albirostris, and other small cetaceans off the coast of Labrador. Canadian Field-Naturalist 101: 131-135.

Dong, J. H., Lien, J., Nelson, D. and Curren, K. 1996. A contribution to the biology of the white-beaked dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris, in waters off Newfoundland. Canadian Field-Naturalist 110: 278-287.

Hammond, P. S., Berggren, P., Benke, H., Borchers, D. L., Collet, A., Heide-Jorgensen, M. P., Heimlich, S., Hiby, A. R., Leopold, M. F. and Oien, N. 2002. Abundance of harbour porpoise and other cetaceans in the North Sea and adjacent waters. Journal of Applied Ecology 39: 361-376.

Harlin-Cognato, A. D. and Honeycutt, R. L. 2006. Multi-locus phylogeny of dolphins in the subfamily Lissodelphininae: Character synergy improves phylogenetic resolution. BMC Evolutionary Biology 6(1): 87.

IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.2). Available at: (Accessed: 17 October 2012).

Jefferson, T. A., Leatherwood, S. and Webber, M. A. 1993. Marine Mammals of the World: FAO Species Identification Guide. United Nation Environment Programme and Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN.

Katona, S. K., Rough, V. and Richardson, D. T. 1993. A field guide to whales, porpoises, and seals from Cape Cod to Newfoundland. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USA.

Kenney, R. D., Payne, P. M., Heinemann, D. W. and Winn, H. E. 1996. Shifts in northeast shelf cetacean distributions relative to trends in Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank finfish abundance. In: K. Sherman, N. A. Jaworski and T. J. Smayda (eds), The Northeast Shelf Ecosystem: Assessment, Sustainability, and Management, pp. 169-196. Blackwell Science, Cambridge, USA.

Kingsley, M. C. S. and Reeves, R. R. 1998. Aerial surveys of cetaceans in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1995 and 1996. Canadian Journal of Zoology 76: 1529-1550.

Kinze, C. C. 2002. White-beaked dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris. In: W. F. Perrin, B. Wursig and J. G. M. Thewissen (eds), Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, pp. 1332-1334. Academic Press, San Diego, California, USA.

Kinze, C. C., Addink, M., Smeenk, C., Garcia Hartmann, M., Richards, H. W., Sonntag, R. P. and Benke, H. 1997. The white-beaked dolphin (Lagenorhynchus albirostris) and the white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus) in the North and Baltic seas: review of available information. Reports of the International Whaling Commission 47: 675-681.

Leduc, R. G., Perrin, W. F. and Dizon, A. E. 1999. Phylogenetic relationships among the delphinid cetaceans based on full cytochrome b sequences. Marine Mammal Science 15: 619-648.

Lien, J., Nelson, D. and Hai, D. J. 2001. Status of the White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 115(1): 118-126.

Mikkelsen, A. M. and Lund, A. 1994. Intraspecific variation in the dolphins Lagenorhynchus albirostris and L. acutus (Mammalia: Cetacea) in metrical and non-metrical skull characters, with remarks on occurrence. Journal of Zoology (London) 234: 289-299.

Northridge, S., Tasker, M., Webb, A., Camphuysen, K. and Leopold, A. 1997. White-beaked, Lagenorhynchus albirostris, and Atlantic white-sided dolphin, L. acutus, distribution in northwest European and US North Atlantic waters. Reports of the International Whaling Commission 47: 797-805.

Oien, N. 1996. Lagenorhynchus species in Norwegian waters as revealed from incidental observations and recent sighting surveys. International Whaling Commission, Cambridge, UK.

Reeves, R. R., Smeenk, C., Kinze, C. C., Brownell Jr., R. L. and Lien, J. 1999. White-beaked dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris Gray, 1846. In: S. H. Ridgway and R. Harrison (eds), Handbook of marine mammals, Vol. 6: The second book of dolphins and the porpoises, pp. 1-30. Academic Press.

Waring, G. T., Josephson, E., Fairfield, C. P. and Maze-Foley, K. (eds). 2006. U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico marine mammal stock assessments - 2005. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-NE, pp. 346 pp..

Citation: Hammond, P.S., Bearzi, G., Bjørge, A., Forney, K.A., Karkzmarski, L., Kasuya, T., Perrin, W.F., Scott, M.D., Wang, J.Y. , Wells, R.S. & Wilson, B. 2012. Lagenorhynchus albirostris. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T11142A17875454. . Downloaded on 25 May 2017.
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