Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are recent visitors to San Francisco Bay. The northern limit of their regular range is currently the Pacific coast off San Francisco, but they occasionally enter the Bay. They are sometimes seen swimming and foraging for fish in Fort Point Cove, just east of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

We are conducting a multi-year assessment to document this species local abundance and distribution, as well as to examine site fidelity and habitat use. Prior to the severe El Nino that brought warm water to California in 1982-83, bottlenose dolphins were primarily residents along the Southern California shore. When water temperatures returned to normal, some of the dolphins stayed north, expanding the species' range.

We are working in collaboration with a marine mammal research group in Monterey Bay, Okeanis, to compare its dolphin observations with ours. Based on photographs of individuals, many of the animals we see in San Francisco Bay have also been sighted in Monterey.

This research is authorized by a Letter of Confirmation issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Project Leader:  Izzy Szczepaniak

Dolphin with paddle boarder in San Francisco Bay

Dolphins near fishing pier at Crissy Field, San Francisco

Photo-Identification: Similar to the Harbor Porpoise Project, we are compiling a catalog of bottlenose dolphins in the San Francisco Bay Area. Photographs will help us track animals over time — individuals are recognized by notches or scars on the dorsal fin. Most of the dolphins we are seeing have already been photographed in Monterey Bay, or as far south as San Diego, over the past several years.   

A trio of bottlenose dolphins, including a calf

Dolphin with prominent scars



  Field Studies of Porpoises, Dolphins & Whales
   in San Francisco Bay and on the Coast of Northern California

Bottlenose Dolphin Project

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