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Dolphins under threat

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Two dolphins swimming in the ocean

Two dolphins swimming in the ocean

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werdepate

Two dolphins swimming in the ocean

Abby Marlborough, ECU Reporter

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Along our Western Australian coastline, marine life can be seen on a daily basis – but what if our marine mammals were under threat?  

A recent study published by the Royal Society, calls for dolphin interaction regulations to be managed, as an increasing amount of evidence shows swimmers and boats can alter dolphin behaviour.

Research found that in the waters of Egypt, in particular the Red Sea, a dolphin species called Spinner Dolphins, are regularly disturbed in their resting places by boats and swimmers, causing changes in their behaviour.

Associate Professor in marine biology, Dr Chandra Salgado Kentin said, “Human interactions can cause disturbance to behaviours that are important for life processes, such as obtaining food [capturing prey], resting [energetic recovery], and social behaviours associated with breeding.

“We are still in the relatively early stages of understanding which activities cause significant impacts and which don’t.”

The study found that harsher regulations need to be in place when it comes to protecting marine life and the environment.

The Royal Society continued that, “Impact assessment is complicated by the fact that the tourism industry repeatedly seeks specific individuals or populations, hence causing effects of disturbances that are cumulative, rather than catastrophic, and can manifest at variable spatial and temporal distances from the source of impact.” 

Dr Salgado Kent explained that, “Boats produce noise, and because noise travels efficiently underwater, dolphins can be exposed to relatively loud noise at greater distances than in air.

She said that exposure to intense noise can increase levels of stress hormones, and result in disruption of critical behaviours.

Over the long-term, intense noise exposure can lead to hearing loss and the resulting stress can cause lowered immune system responses for dolphins.

WA currently has bottlenose dolphins along its coastline, in the Swan River and along the Mandurah foreshore.

While our understanding of potential impacts continues to grow, we can help this problem before it begins.

Australia leads the way in marine and mammal protection, but an increase in community-awareness of these guidelines is needed in order to protect the future of dolphins.

According to the Australian National Guidelines for Whale Watching 2017, “Regulations apply to all people interacting with whales and dolphins, including commercial operators (tourist or otherwise) and people operating private vessels.

When in a vessel, do not approach closer than 100m to any whale or 50m to any dolphin.

The caution zone for vessels is the area within 300m of a whale and 150m of a dolphin. No more than three vessels are allowed within the caution zone at any one time and vessels should operate at no wake speeds within this zone.

For more information on Australia’s regulations click here, and for WA’s, click here.

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About the Writer
Abby Marlborough, Reporter

Abigail Marlborough or Abby as she likes to be called, is an inspiring Broadcasting and Film and Video student with a passion for creating content, either in the newsroom or for the big screen. She is interested in traveling the world and exploring new countries. Abby hopes to one day work within both industries, either in the UK or Australia.

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Dolphins under threat