An extremely rare sighting of a snow-white harbour porpoise has been recorded off the coast of Holland this week. Marine workers Scott Campbell and Ian Rutter filmed the unusual sighting on their smartphones and reported the information to UK-based whale and dolphin charity ORCA. (Hop over to our Facebook page to watch the footage....link below.)
Harbour porpoises are shy and elusive but can be seen regularly in the North Sea between Northeast England and the Netherlands. They are usually a grey colour with a lighter belly.
Rather than being an albino porpoise, it is much more likely that the animal was affected by leucism – a condition that results from defects in pigment cell differentiation (hypo-pigmentation), often with an associated reduction in melanin production.
Many leucistic cetaceans are adults, suggesting that they can survive well and survival may be more likely than originally expected. In some species, albino or leucistic animals are rejected by their social group, but in the sociable world of cetaceans, many remain in pods/family units indicating that they are accepted.
There is also no evidence that a higher proportion are stranded which may indicate their fitness isn’t significantly impacted.
The last recorded UK sighting of a white harbour porpoise was off Morwenstow in Cornwall in 2016. Only 35 cases have ever been recorded globally, with almost half of these in the Northeast Atlantic.
Huge thanks to Scott and Ian for allowing us to share their amazing footage,,,