$ 8.6 million awarded to the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre

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The Western Australian State Government, via the Royalty for Regions initiative, has award $8.6 million to the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre. The funding will see a major redevelopment of the Centre’s tourism facilities, its restaurant and public display facilities and research buildings.

Dignitaries celebrate Royalty for Regions funding allocation towards the Bunbury Waterfront Development and the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre. From left to right: Premier Colin Barnett, Dolphin Discovery Centre General Manager David Kerr, Bunbury MLA John Castrilli, Minister for Lands and Development Terry Redman and South West Development Commission Chief Executive Officer Don Punch. Image source: South West Times (13 May 2016).

Dignitaries celebrate Royalty for Regions funding allocation towards the Bunbury Waterfront Development and the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre. From left to right: Premier Colin Barnett, Dolphin Discovery Centre General Manager David Kerr, Bunbury MLA John Castrilli, Minister for Lands and Development Terry Redman and South West Development Commission Chief Executive Officer Don Punch. Image source: South West Times (13 May 2016).

Additional funding has also been allocated for developing innovative interpretation displays and landscaping the foreshore for coastal protection. The overall implementation and completion date of these facilities and upgrades is December 2017.

This is certainly great news for the City of Bunbury and the South West region in general.

Murdoch University’s Cetacean Research Unit is a proud partner of the Dolphin Discovery Centre with researchers, higher degree research students and office space located at the Centre in Bunbury. For over a decade, we have been science providers for the Centre through the South West Marine Research Program (SWMRP).

The SWMRP was initially founded in 2006 through a partnership between Murdoch University and the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre, with support from the South West Development Commission, and is now composed of partners from industry, government, research and the community. The SWMRP strives to assess the long-term viability of bottlenose dolphin population off Bunbury, south-western Australia. Through this research, a detailed understanding of the characteristics of the local dolphin population is being obtained. The program is providing critical information for assessing the potential impacts of human activity on dolphins, therefore assisting industry partners in planning their activities in the marine environment while minimizing their impacts on the local dolphin population.

Now in its tenth year of data collection, the SWMRP is well-established as a long-term, ongoing study of a coastal dolphin population. Research to date has yielded valuable information on the population’s abundance, habitat use, behavioural and foraging ecology, and genetic connectivity to other populations in south-western Australia. With nearly a decade of year-round monitoring data, the SWMRP is yielding some fascinating results, and is facilitating the investigation of research questions of an increasing diversity and complexity.

A research team searching for dolphins in the Leschenault Estuary. Image: MUCRU.

A research team searching for dolphins in the Leschenault Estuary. Image: MUCRU.

From a research perspective, the Royalty for Regions funding boost to the Centre will provide for:

  1. Improved facilities for community education and research forums through the Centre’s new function rooms and facilities.
  2. Increased community awareness and exposure of the SWMRP and its partners through the increased visitation to the new Interpretive Centre.
  3. On site boat launching facilities for the research vessel.
  4. Improved research office facilities.
  5. Improved boatshed facilities.
  6. Improved sustainability of the Dolphin Discovery Centre as host of the research.

We are delighted to be part of Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre’s journey and look forward to further developing the scientific basis for managing the local dolphin population through the SWMRP. A big congratulation to the Dolphin Discovery Centre, the South West Development Commission, City of Bunbury among others.

Current and past SWMRP partners

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Lars Bejder PhD
Lars Bejder PhD
Professor Lars Bejder PhD is the Research Leader of the Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit.
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