Bunbury dolphin winter surveys complete – including observation of recent shark bite

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Spring is here and we have completed our winter field work for 2011.

We were on the water for a total of 18 full days during our winter season. We completed six transects of each of the following areas: Inshore, Buffalo Beach and Back Beach (view transect lines here). In total, we recorded 43 dolphin group sightings.

In addition to this, we conducted our first offshore transects.

These transects extend five nautical miles offshore extending past the 20 m depth contour. We did not encounter any dolphins during these six offshore transects – which is interesting in itself. Is this the first sign that adult males don’t venture too far away from the coastline? Time will tell. We did, however, see beautiful seabirds like yellow-nosed albatross, shearwaters and Australasian gannets.

During our winter season, we did come across some interesting observations, such as dolphins feeding on octopus, puffer fish and cuttlefish. We also saw “Nosey”, an adult male dolphin, with a fresh large shark bite (see picture). We also came across two very large dolphin groups on Backbeach with around 40-50 dolphins in each group.

Unfortunately, we also had a dolphin death in the Leschanault Estuary this past week. We have recovered the carcass and are still trying to confirm which dolphin it was. The dolphin was a young male that will be necropsied by the Cetacean Research Unit vets, Carly Holyoake and Nahiid Stephens, next week.

Spring field season is now here and we will continue to collect photo identification data on the dolphins and complete three transects in Busselton, Backbeach offshore, Buffalo Beach offshore and six transects on Inshore, Back Beach and Buffalo Beach. We have two interns currently, Inge from Holland and Isabelle from Germany, both looking forward to seeing more sun.

This research is made possible through the South West Marine Research Program (SWMRP). We thank all the SWMRP partners for their continued support.

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