[MARMAM] Two publications on north-western Australian delphinids and Environmental Impact Assessment

Simon Allen S.Allen at murdoch.edu.au
Mon Sep 3 23:32:38 PDT 2012

G¹day Marmamers,

MUCRU (http://mucru.org/) are pleased to announce the publication of the
following two articles in the latest issue of Pacific Conservation Biology
(abstracts below). The data paper is the first peer-reviewed publication on
coastal dolphins of north-western Australia, while the Forum Essay discusses
the short-comings in the current Environmental Impact Assessment processes
in Western Australia. The lack of baseline data on many wildlife populations
and the impacts of large-scale coastal development there-on represent
conservation issues across northern Australia and are likely to be relevant
in numerous locations globally.

Please drop either of us a line if you¹d like the PDFs (Lars:
L.Bejder at murdoch.edu.au or Simon: S.Allen at murdoch.edu.au).

Kind regards, Simon and Lars

Allen SJ, Cagnazzi DD, Hodgson AJ, Loneragan NR and Bejder L 2012. Tropical
inshore dolphins of north-western Australia: Unknown populations in a
changing region. Pacific Conservation Biology 18: 56-63.

Australian Snubfin Orcaella heinsohni, Indo-Pacific Humpback Sousa chinensis
and Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins Tursiops aduncus inhabit Australia¹s
tropical north-western coastline, a region undergoing extensive port
development associated with the massive expansion of the oil, gas and mining
industries. The current lack of data on dolphin population sizes or trends
precludes impact assessments of developments on these protected species.
Furthermore, the Western Australian and Commonwealth Government conservation
listings of tropical inshore dolphins do not reflect their international
listings. From April to July, 2010, we conducted ad hoc boat-based surveys
(n=55) of inshore delphinids at seven sites across north-western Australia
from Coral Bay in the south (23.1°S: 113.8°E) to Cable Beach in the north
(17.9°S: 122.2°E). We documented the locations of these three species from
which we obtained photo-identification and biopsy data, as well as reports
of Australian Snubfin Dolphin sightings from researchers and community
groups. The data from this limited field effort confirm that Indo-Pacific
Humpback and Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphins occur in the waters adjacent
to each north-western Australian urban centre and show that the range of the
Australian Snubfin Dolphin extends considerably further south-west than
previously reported. Given the scale of coastal developments and the
vulnerability of isolated cetacean populations to fragmentation or
extirpation, assessments of the viability of dolphin populations are
required. Our data suggest that the Australian Snubfin, Indo-Pacific
Humpback and Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins need to be considered as
likely to be impacted by coastal developments across north-western

Bejder L, Hodgson A, Loneragan N and Allen S 2012. Coastal dolphins in
north-western Australia: The need for re-evaluation of species listings and
short-comings in the Environmental Impact Assessment process. Pacific
Conservation Biology 18: 22­25.
Little is known about the distribution, abundance and behavioural ecology of
dolphins in the tropical north-west of Australia. This region is remote, and
until recently, has had a relatively low human population. Two of
Australia¹s tropical coastal dolphin species, the Australian Snubfin
Orcaella heinsohni and Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins Sousa chinensis
(³Snubfin Dolphin² and ³Humpback Dolphin², hereafter) are known to occur in
the region. Australia-wide, the only scientific publications on these two
species come from a few studies from eastern Queensland, where both species
live in ³populations² of 50­100 individuals that are genetically isolated
from one another; have small home ranges; and are found in near-shore areas,
typically within 3-5 km of the coastline. In eastern Australia, both species
forage on coastal/estuarine fish and cephalopods, which is further evidence
of their reliance on the near-shore environment. According to population
sizes in Queensland, and the extent of potentially suitable habitat along
the north-west coast, the total numbers in Western Australia are likely to
be in the low thousands of individuals (i.e., < 5 000). The combination of
these life-history characteristics may render Snubfin and Humpback Dolphins
particularly vulnerable to local extinctions due to human activities such as
habitat modification and increased shipping and boating activity. In this
Essay, we review the current extent of coastal developments in the waters of
north-west Australia. Then we discuss the conservation and management
implications of this in relation to coastal dolphins, particularly Snubfin
and Humpback Dolphins. We also appraise the current, non-targeted methods
being used to survey marine mammal populations for environmental impact
assessments (EIAs), highlighting their inadequacy for coastal dolphins.
Finally, we make recommendations that should improve government decision
making processes for the long term.

Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit
Centre for Fish, Fisheries and Aquatic Ecosystems Research
School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Murdoch University
90 South St., Murdoch
Western Australia 6150

( Tel (61-8) 9360 2823
Ê Fax (61-8) 9360 6303
Mob (61-0) 416 083 653
* s.allen at murdoch.edu.au
Web http://mucru.org/group-members/simon-allen/
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