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Bottlenose dolphins in the Netherlands come from two sides: across the North Sea and through the English Channel

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 October 2021

Jeroen P. A. Hoekendijk*
Department of Coastal Systems, NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, P.O. Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, the Netherlands Wageningen Marine Research, Ankerpark 27, NL-1781 AG Den Helder, the Netherlands Wageningen University & Research Centre, Droevendaalsesteeg 1, NL-6708 PB Wageningen, the Netherlands
Mardik F. Leopold
Wageningen Marine Research, Ankerpark 27, NL-1781 AG Den Helder, the Netherlands
Barbara J. Cheney
Lighthouse Field Station, University of Aberdeen, School of Biological Sciences, CromartyIV11 8YL, UK
Author for correspondence: Jeroen P. A. Hoekendijk, E-mail:


On 19 July 2019 an estimated 20 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) were observed in the Marsdiep, a tidal inlet connecting the North Sea and the Dutch Wadden Sea, between Den Helder and the island of Texel. Photographs and video recordings were made and nine individuals were matched with known dolphins from the Moray Firth, NE Scotland. These are the first matches of this east coast of Scotland population outside the UK and Ireland. Subsequent observations of individuals from this group show that at least some of the animals have returned to Scottish waters, while others were photographed in Danish waters. Furthermore, we report on a photo identification match of a solitary bottlenose dolphin between France and the Netherlands. These matches suggest that bottlenose dolphins, in the Netherlands, originate from two different genetically distinct populations: ‘Coastal South’ and ‘Coastal North’. This evidence of previously unknown long-range movements may have important implications for the conservation and management of this species in European waters.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

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