Coastal and Estuarine Dolphin Project (Perth)

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Perth Metropolitan Waters

Coastal and Estuarine Dolphin Project

The Coastal and Estuarine Dolphin Project (CEDP) is a collaborative, multi-institution project, combining the research expertise of Curtin University and Murdoch University with the support of a variety of corporate, community, and government partners. CEDP is studying the health, ecology, and conservation of dolphins inhabiting the metropolitan waters of Perth, including the Swan Canning Riverpark and Cockburn Sound.

CEDP Vision

Our coastal and estuarine ecosystems have changed greatly over the last century. Increasing pressures from development and climate change will continue to transform these environments. These changes present significant challenges for the conservation of dolphins within our estuaries and along our coasts. Our aim is to ensure that dolphins remain vital and functioning parts of our estuarine and coastal ecosystems into the future. We believe this goal can be achieved through an integrated program of scientific research, community involvement, and strategic partnerships linking the management efforts of industry, government, and community.

Purpose & Aims

The Coastal and Estuarine Dolphin Project aims to ensure the long-term conservation of bottlenose dolphins in metropolitan waters of Perth, Western Australia. CEDP follows a partnership model, with project partners drawn from State and Local Government, industry, recreational river-users, and the broader community of Western Australia. The project will deliver tangible outcomes to assist with the long-term conservation of dolphins in the Swan River and the southern waters of Perth.

The primary objectives of CEDP are:

  • to conduct rigorous and innovative research into the health and
    ecology of dolphins in the Perth metropolitan area;
  • to provide scientific information to industry and State and Local
    Governments to support dolphin conservation and management;
  • to share information and expertise with community members
    and organisations to improve community based conservation and
    monitoring efforts for dolphins

CEDP has four project areas
[tabs style=”vertical”][tab title=”Ecology”] Ecology
CEDP is undertaking a comprehensive investigation into the population biology and ecosystem linkages of dolphins in the Perth area, with an initial focus on dolphins inhabiting the region between Scarborough and Rockingham and the Swan-Canning Estuary. This research will determine the current size and composition of the population of dolphins in this area, assess their residency and ranging patterns, and examine their feeding ecology.

This information will help to identify important habitats and food sources and evaluate potential threats to improve the scientific basis for environmental decision-making and management within the metropolitan waters of Perth, including the Swan Canning Riverpark.

This research builds on several previous Murdoch University studies of dolphins in the Perth area, the first of which began in 1993. These studies provide an invaluable baseline for the current research. In addition, both Curtin and Murdoch have a long history of studying the fish communities and marine habitats of the Perth area, including more than 25 years of research into the fish assemblages of the Swan-Canning Estuary.

Population Assessment: Project Overview

The Population Assessment project is to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the status of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) within the southern metropolitan waters of Perth. This project will use photo-identification and strip transects to assess dolphin abundance, habitat use, and ranging patterns within an area encompassing Cockburn Sound, Owen Anchorage, Gage Roads, and the Swan-Canning Estuary over a three-year period. This information will improve our understanding of how many dolphins occur in the region, what habitats are important to them, and when they use these habitats. It will also provide critical information on the current size, composition, and ecology of the resident dolphin communities associated with the Swan-Canning Estuary and with Cockburn Sound. Findings from Population Assessment project will support better decision-making about the potential impacts of human activities on dolphins in this region and in planning for its future use.

[/tab] [tab title=”Health”] Health
The investigation into the deaths of six Swan River dolphins in 2009 emphasised how little we know about the health of dolphins within our estuarine and coastal ecosystems. Such information is vitally important if we are to understand how various human and natural stressors impact on dolphins.

Collaboration with the Marine Mammal Health Project will continue on-going research into dolphin health and pathology in the Perth area. This research conducts post-mortem examinations to gather information on factors affecting dolphin health, including the prevalence of primary and secondary pathogens and human-induced injuries. Tissue archiving is also undertaken to support contaminants and other analyses. Future work will assess prevalence of tattoo skin disease (TSD) using photo-identification techniques to identify and monitor TSD lesions on known individuals.

[button link=”” style=”download”]Download Murdoch University’s report to the Swan River Trust on the 2009 unusual mortality event of bottlenose dolphins within the Swan Canning Riverpark.[/button] [/tab] [tab title=”Monitoring Technologies”] Read more here.

[/tab] [tab title=”Conservation & Community”] Community and Conservation

CEDP provides on-going support for Dolphin Watch, a community monitoring project run by the Swan River Trust’s River Guardians program in collaboration with Murdoch and Curtin.

Started in 2009, Dolphin Watch now involves more than 200 community volunteers. In 2011 we released the first edition of ‘FinBook’ – a catalogue of dolphins observed within the Swan-Canning Estuary.

A reduction in entanglement and other human-associated injuries is a key objective for CEDP. We are working with community groups and management agencies to encourage better disposal of waste, more responsible fishing and boating practices, and safer human-dolphin interactions.

[/tab] [/tabs]

Partnership Opportunities

CEDP is seeking to work with partners from a range of industries, government departments, private and community groups.

This partner focus is integral to achieving the significant objectives of the project, particularly in relation to the collation of relevant datasets and the capacity to communicate scientific information to a concerned public. These actions are required to ensure the long-term conservation of the dolphins that inhabit our local waters, especially the vulnerable Swan River population.

An investment in the research of the CEDP offers many reciprocal opportunities for the University, the researchers and partners, including but not limited to:

  • Opportunities to access to research findings prior to publication and public disbursement
  • Representation of partnership on Murdoch University and Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit (MUCRU) websites
  • Recognition as CEDP partner in media releases, presentations and publications
  • Corporate identification on MUCRU website as a CEDP partner
  • General media releases to inform of partnership and to identify significant developments and partnership
  • Invitations to participate in relevant CEDP, MUCRU and Dolphin Watch events and workshops
  • Opportunities to engage researchers in internal and external stakeholder events and presentations
  • Access to relevant data and publications collated as an outcome of the partnership
  • Opportunities to represent partnership and community activities and education on websites with reciprocal links.

Supporting CEDP

What will CEDP achieve?

Our vision for CEDP is straightforward. We believe that the best future for our dolphins lies with ecosystems that are healthy and resilient and with communities that are actively engaged in the conservation and monitoring of their local dolphin populations. To achieve this future, CEDP seeks to establish a collaboration of community, industry and government stakeholders to support an integrated program of scientific research and conservation actions.

Outcomes of this collaboration will include:

  1. Better Science for Conservation – improved scientific basis for dolphin conservation within the Swan Canning Riverpark and within other coastal and estuarine ecosystems.
  2. Better Community Engagement in Dolphin Conservation – higher levels of public understanding about the issues
    affecting dolphin and ecosystem health, and actions to reduce the incidence of entanglements, boat strikes, and other harmful interactions.
  3. Better Management – Greater integration of conservation efforts for dolphins across government, industry, and
    community stakeholders, including maritime, foreshore, and catchment-based industries; management agencies;
    recreational boaters and fishers; marinas and yacht clubs; local governments; developers; and recreational and environmental groups.

How can you help?

Become a Dolphin Watch volunteer

Contact the Swan River Trust’s River Guardians program on 9278 0900 or at

Support the Coastal and Estuarine Dolphin Project

We are seeking your help to implement this important research. To make a donation to the CEDP please complete a donation form and return it to the Murdoch University Foundation.

To enquire about corporate gifts or financial partnerships please contact the Office of Development on 9360 6507 or at Donations are fully tax deductible and will be issue with a receipt.

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