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New possible bottlenose dolphin sighting turns heads in Finland

The eyewitness, who first heard the animal splashing by the southeastern coast, said she couldn't believe her eyes.

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A snapshot of what appears to be a bottlenose dolphin jumping in waters off the coast of Loviisa, Finland on 11 June, 2020. Image: Paavo Heikkinen

Another sighting of what appeared to be a bottlenose dolphin was made off the southern coast of Finland in the city of Loviisa.

Local summer resident Maria Forsström and her husband managed to get a good, long look, as well as a photo of the rare creature from their seaside terrace on Thursday evening, which she then shared on Facebook.

"I heard a splash. I didn't really react at first, but when it continued, I had to take a look. And there, about 300-400 meters right off our shore, something jumped [out of the water] and I thought it looked like a dolphin," Forsström told Svenska Yle.

Then Forsström called out to her husband, Paavo Heikkinen, asking him to bring the binoculars and a camera. Heikkinen was able to capture the visitor in a photo as it was breaching the water.

"It continued for around 15-20 minutes. A boater came, perhaps wanting to take a picture too, but [the dolphin] didn't make an appearance then. Later on we saw it swim out to sea," Forsström explained, adding that she thinks the animal was on its own, because she didn't see any others.

At first, she said, she didn't believe her eyes.

"It feels wonderful to have been able to experience something like this. I never would have thought we'd see one in our waters," Forsström said, adding that she plans to keep an eye out for it.

"Already this morning, I had to go down to the shore to look, but I didn't see any traces of it," she said.

Second sighting in recent weeks

If what Forsström and her husband saw was a bottlenose dolphin, it wasn't the first recent sighting in recent weeks.

Towards the end of last month, a 13-year old filmed three dolphins near her home in the archipelago, along Finland's southwest coast. Since then there have been dolphin sightings near Tallinn, Estonia, some 85km south of Helsinki.

Such sightings are extremely rare, as up until that point it had been nearly 70 years since the last confirmed sighting of bottlenose dolphins in the Baltic Sea.

Kai Mattsson, an experienced dolphin trainer who worked for years at the Särkänniemi dolphinarium before the animals were sent to a new home in Greece, said the new sighting appeared to be a bottlenose dolphin, rather than a harbour porpoise more commonly seen in the region.

Mattson has worked with dolphins since the 1980s and is also member of an environment ministry harbour porpoise working group.

Likely not a harbour porpoise

"First, it's about the body size and shape. The fin looks more curved, while the porpoise's fin is more triangular. And then there's the behaviour [differences]. Porpoises are known to jump out of the water but it's unusual, they stay put beneath the surface," Mattson explained, noting that sightings of bottlenose dolphins are a relatively rare phenomenon in Finland.

He said that common dolphins were last seen in Finland in 2006, but suffered a sad fate as they often became tangled in fishing nets.

Although dolphins often arrive to the Gulf of Finland from the North Sea or by way of the Danish straits, Mattson said he suspects Thursday's bottlenose dolphin probably came from Germany, in the south, but underscored it was still speculation.

"Sometimes they wander up here. They probably came here along the south coast. They are opportunists when it comes to food, so they probably came looking for something to eat," he said.

However, the dolphin expert advised people not to head to locations where dolphins have been recently sighted, however.

"You shouldn't rush off and try to get a glimpse of the dolphins, but if you do, you should preferably do it farther back from the shore. This way, you won't disturb the dolphin's lives," Mattson noted.

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