Enjoy dolphins from a distance, expert says

December 16, 2014

A dolphin calf entangled in a clump of fishing line (Pic: Delphine Chabanne)

A Murdoch University dolphin expert has advised that members of the public should enjoy observing dolphins from a distance this summer.

PhD student Delphine Chabanne from Murdoch University’s Cetacean Research Unit (MUCRU), who has been studying the bottlenose dolphins of Cockburn Sound and the Swan-Canning Riverpark for almost four years, said it was important for people to behave correctly if they came into close contact with the species.

“The summer months are a time when there are more people making the most of our beautiful coastline and waterways and so there are more opportunities for interactions with the local dolphin population,” said Ms Chabanne.

“It is also the time when the majority of dolphin calves are born.

“In order to maintain their populations in the waters around Perth, it is essential that people behave correctly. If you see dolphins, stay clear of them and their swim path because if they are forced to change direction, dolphins may get separated from their pods.

“It’s also important to slow down if you see dolphins coming toward your boat so you can stop in time to avoid distressing or colliding with them.

“People should never feed dolphins themselves. Not only is it illegal with huge fines attached to the offence, but it can be enormously damaging to dolphins. Research has found that begging for food from people is a harmful behavior that can be passed from dolphin to dolphin. These dolphins also have higher rates of injury from boat strikes and entanglement in discarded fishing line.”

Ms Chabanne also said it was essential that any sort of rubbish is either taken home or correctly disposed of.

“Fishing lines are particularly damaging,” she said. “It can restrict their movement and lead to starvation, infection, amputation, drowning and increased vulnerability to predators.

“Since the beginning of our study in 2011, six dolphins have been reported entangled with fishing line. This number includes two adults and two calves regularly seen in the Swan Canning Riverpark and two calves regularly seen in Cockburn Sound.

“According to our research the resident population of dolphins within the Swan Canning Riverpark is less than 25 individuals so this is clearly a significant hazard for them. Fortunately, in most cases Department of Parks and Wildlife officers and the Water Police have successfully disentangled the dolphins but the fishing lines leave scars and marks that are a clear reminder of the danger posed by discarded lines.”

Ms Chabanne is due to complete the field work component of her study into the ecology and population structure of dolphins in Perth’s waterways next year.

Information from Ms Chabanne’s project will improve scientists’ understanding of how many dolphins occur in the Perth region, what habitats are important to them and how dolphins are distributed along the coast. This information can then be used to support the integration of conservation efforts across government, industry and community stakeholders.

Ms Chabanne’s research has been made possible through the support of a variety of corporate, government and community partners including volunteers from the Dolphin Watch project, Fremantle Ports, Fremantle Sailing Club and the Swan River Trust.

Print This Post Print This Post

Leave a comment

You can use these tags : <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

We read every comment and will make every effort to approve each new comment within one working day. To ensure speedy posting, please keep your comments relevant to the topic of discussion, free of inappropriate language and in-line with the editorial integrity of this newsroom. If not, your comments may not be published.

Thanks for commenting!