[MARMAM] New publication on effects of Australia's largest dolphin-watching industry

Andre Steckenreuter andre.steckenreuter at mq.edu.au
Thu Jan 12 15:27:34 PST 2012

Dear Marmamers,

We are happy to announce the following publication:

Steckenreuter, A., Möller, L., Harcourt, R. (2012). How does Australia’s
largest dolphin-watching industry affect the behaviour of Indo-Pacific
bottlenose dolphins? Journal of Environmental Management 97: 14-21.


AbstractThe 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 is located within the Port Stephens – Great Lakes Marine Park that was
created in 2005. The effects of this industry have been identified as of
significant management importance by the Marine Parks Authority NSW.
Accordingly, the impact of commercial dolphin-watching boats was
investigated from boat-based surveys from August 2008 to August 2009.
Presence of dolphin-watching boats altered both the dolphins’ behavioural
states and activity budgets. Dolphins spent 66.5% less time feeding and
44.2% less time socialising, spent four times more milling, and were never
observed to rest in the presence of dolphin-watching boats. Moreover,
dolphin groups were more cohesive during dolphin-watching boat encounters
and dolphins tended to avoid tour boats. These effects were exacerbated as
the number of boats increased and the distance from boats decreased. The
rate of approach was high with boats approaching each dolphin group three
times per day in winter and six times in summer. Moreover, groups of
dolphins with newborns were approached closer than state regulated minimum
approach distances in nine out of ten encounters. Globally,
dolphin-watching industries frequent small resident groups of coastal
dolphins and effects are likely to be similar. We suggest that existing
controls are inadequate and that these together with additional regulations
be enforced by a regular presence of authorities. We suggest no more than
one dolphin-watching boat within 50 m of a group of dolphins, or 100 m if
calves are present. Operating times of dolphin-watching boats should be
restricted in numbers after 1pm, i.e., during preferred foraging times for
dolphins. Additionally, exclusion zones should be considered to reduce
pressure on dolphins undertaking critical activities such as feeding and
resting. We recommend monitoring the effectiveness of new regulations that
are incorporated in the reviewed marine park management plan in 2012 for a
period of three years.


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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