[MARMAM] new publications on tourism impact on Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins

Andre Steckenreuter andre.steckenreuter at mq.edu.au
Fri Nov 18 15:37:19 PST 2011

Dear Marmamers,

I am pleased to announce two new publications:

Steckenreuter, A., Harcourt, R., Möller, L. (2012). Are Speed Restriction
Zones an effective management tool for minimising impacts of boats on
dolphins in an Australian marine park? *Marine Policy* 36: 258-264.



The small, genetically distinct population of Indo-Pacific bottlenose
dolphins (*Tursiops aduncus*) in Port Stephens, New South Wales (NSW), is
the target of the largest dolphin-watching industry in Australia and falls
within the recently created Port Stephens—Great Lakes Marine Park. The
effectiveness of Speed Restriction Zones (SRZs) as a management tool in
this area was investigated during their second year of implementation by
comparing dolphin usage and behaviour to adjacent Control Zones (CZs) of
similar habitat. For this purpose, boat-based surveys and focal follows of
dolphin groups were carried out in the zones between August 2008 and August
2009. Results showed that SRZs were more intensely used by dolphin-watching
boats in summer. There was no change in dolphins’ behaviour and group
structure in the presence of dolphin-watching boats in SRZs when compared
to dolphin groups within CZs in any season. Dolphin groups including calves
used SRZs less during summer. The latter may indicate a shift in area
utilisation for those groups during intense boat traffic by
dolphin-watching operators. CZs were more important than SRZs as foraging
grounds for dolphins in summer. This indicates that SRZs as specified are
not effective at minimising boating impacts and that the location of these
zones should in time be revised. This is important information for
management of dolphin-watching within this marine park and an example of
adaptive management in progress. Moreover these results are relevant for
conservation of dolphins and the management of dolphin-watching industries
elsewhere, particularly new industries, where management strategies may
incorporate marine protected areas including zoning plans.

 Steckenreuter, A., Harcourt, R., Möller, L. (2011). Distance does matter:
close approaches by boats impede feeding and resting behaviour of
Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. *Wildlife Research *38: 455-463.



*Context:* Potential impacts of human disturbance on animal populations can
be measured as behavioural responses and may affect the survival and
fecundity of animals. In areas where human–wildlife interactions occur,
conservation management needs to be in place to secure both a viable
tourism industry and the sustainability of the targeted species.

*Aims:* We sought to evaluate whether different approach distances by boat
have effects on the behaviour and group cohesion of dolphins that are
targeted by Australia’s largest dolphin-watching industry.

*Methods:* The effects of different approach distances of boats on the
behavioural states of dolphins, group dispersal and direction of movement
were investigated in this area by controlled boat experiments conducted
between August 2008 and December 2009.

*Key results:* Results showed that there was significantly less feeding
when boats approached dolphin groups to a distance of 50 m than when they
did to a distance of 150 m, or with controlled approaches. Resting was also
observed significantly less when boats approached to a distance of 50 m
than when they approached to a distance of 150 m. The dispersal of dolphin
groups was significantly tighter (less dispersed) when boats approached to
50 m than that with 150-m-distance or controlled approaches. Furthermore,
the dolphins’ direction of movement was less neutral when the experimental
boat approaches were carried out at a distance of 50 m than when they were
carried out at a distance of 150 m, or with controlled approaches. Similar
results were also obtained for dolphin groups including calves.

*Conclusions:* On the basis of the results from this study, we recommend
that the existing New South Wales regulations, which stipulate that
dolphin-watching boats keep a distance of 50 m to groups with adults only
and 150 m to groups with calves, are maintained within the Port
Stephens–Great Lakes Marine Park (PSGLMP).

*Implications:* Management plans whose stated goals include both
sustainability of a dolphin-watching industry and longer-term viability of
a dolphin population may reconcile conflicting objectives and improve their
decision making by using these empirical measures rather than best guesses.


Andre Steckenreuter
PhD Candidate
Marine Mammal Research Group
Graduate School of the Environment
Macquarie University, 2109 NSW, Australia

Ph: 0410862189
Email: andre.steckenreuter at mq.edu.au
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