A Pacific white-sided dolphin jumps out of the water during a recent sighting. Photo courtesy of David Janka.

Fishermen and boaters have reported recent encounters with a playful visitor to the waters near Orca Inlet. Several sightings of a Pacific white-sided dolphin, sometimes also known as the hookfin porpoise, have been reported and videos shared on social media show the animal surfacing and jumping.  

The Pacific white-sided dolphin is known to be playful and social, oftentimes following boats to play in bow wake. While the dolphin has a known range from California to Alaska, sightings in Prince William Sound are fairly rare.   

David Janka, recently retired owner and operator of Auklet Charters, said that encountering these animals in nearshore waters is a special experience. Janka said the dolphins are primarily a pelagic species seen in deeper waters not frequented by many Cordova-based tours.  

“Over the decades we’ve seen this species only twice,” he shared.  

The dolphin is able to be differentiated from the commonly seen Dall’s porpoise by its light gray backside and more slender tail.  

The sighting adds to a small but growing list of interesting marine mammal observations in the region this summer.  


Cordovans have also spotted a sperm whale making appearances throughout the Sound this spring.  

Sperm whales are more often sighted in the Gulf of Alaska where they dive in deep waters to find prey. Sperm whales have a distinctive single blow hole from which they emit a low, forward leaning blow. This blow pattern, able to be seen on the surface from a vessel, stands in contrast to that of the more common humpback whale which creates a more vertical blow from two separate holes. This blow pattern, along with the sperm whale’s iconic bulbous head, make it easily identifiable from other whales.  

In July, a solitary Pacific walrus was seen at Rocky Point near Galena Bay. The male walrus was sprawled out on a rock at low tide when it was observed by a group of kayakers based out of Valdez. Pangaea Adventures, a Valdez-based tour company, posted a video of the walrus being observed from a safe distance to their Facebook page on July 15. Comments on the post included anecdotes from locals who say they have not seen or heard of walrus in the area since 2012.   

Janka says in his experience as a naturalist guide these rare animal observations may not be indicative of larger trends in behavior.  

“These sightings are often based on individual animals,” Janka said. “It’s hard to say why they show up.”  

NOAA urges members of the public to observe marine animals from a safe and respectful distance, and to not approach or touch them.