Research uncovers the importance of Princess Royal Harbour to dolphins and whales

Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
A rare image of a local dolphin named Double-Dash tossing and processing cuttlefish. ABOVE: Mum and calf.
Camera IconA rare image of a local dolphin named Double-Dash tossing and processing cuttlefish. ABOVE: Mum and calf.

New research is uncovering the importance of Princess Royal Harbour to dolphins and whales.

South Coast Cetaceans is conducting weekly boat-based surveys to get to know the local dolphin populations better, including what species are present, movement patterns, and ecology.

They hope it will help to improve the management of regionally critical habitat and combat a population decline triggered by human activity.

Marine scientist and environmental consultant Kirsty Alexander said more needed to be done to understand the impact of harbour activity on the dolphins.

“The importance of the harbours to dolphins and how they are used by dolphin species is unknown,” she said.

“My research aims to provide information so that we can make good decisions about how we use the harbours.

“A good example might be that if we know an area is really important for mothers and calves, we wouldn’t necessarily just ban boating and shut people out.

“Instead, we might as a community decide that in that area boats must travel at no-wake speed.”

She said her studies had shown the harbours were their home.

“They really are our neighbours,” she said.

“It turns out that when you see bottlenose dolphins while you are walking on the beach or out for a fish, it is very likely you are seeing the same dolphins.

“I call them the ‘usual suspects’ because they are resident.

“This means what we do have a really big impact on their lives, just as something happening in our backyard impacts us much more than something happening in the next town.”

Double-Dash with her new calf.
Camera IconDouble-Dash with her new calf. Credit: Supplied

The surveys have also given a rare insight into the dolphins’ diet and the spectacular ways they hunt.

“Cuttlefish bones are removed with surgical precision and left floating on the surface,” she said.

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