Bunbury spring surveys complete

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We have completed our 2011 spring season (September-November).

During this time, we were on the boat for 21 days (>110 hours) and we encountered 65 groups of dolphins. We completed six replicates of each of the following areas: Inshore, Buffalo Beach and Back Beach (view transect lines here). We also conducted three Busselton transects and three offshore transects that extend five nautical miles from the coast.

Some spring highlights were:

  • In the second week of spring we encountered our first humpback whale for the southern migration. It was breaching multiple times in 13m depth of water.
  • For the first and only time to date so far, during our first Back Beach offshore transect, we encountered two mums with their calves (Alien and ET; Cloud and Storm) 6.6km offshore in 15.5m deep water.
  • During our Busselton transects we encountered a total of six dolphin groups. From these encounters, two dolphins (Nightmare and Peanut) were confirmed resights from 2007 when MUCRU conducted a biopsy field trip. As we continue our Busselton field trips our dolphin catalogue continues to expand and this season we have added ten new dolphins to the catalogue.
  • On the 28th September the Dolphin Discovery Centre’s Eco Cruise observed “Boomer” with a large shark bite on it’s side (see main image). On the 6thOctober we saw Boomer actively tossing around octopus on Back Beach. Unfortunately, tens days later two jet skiers found Boomer floating in Koombana Bay and alerted the Dolphin Discovery Centre. SWMRP researchers took photographs, measurements, skin samples and teeth from the badly decomposed Boomer before she was buried. Boomer had three known calves before she was bitten. Her recent calf, Kanga, was around six months old when she died and we have not seen Kanga since.

    "Ridge" with a shark bite

  • A second shark bite for the spring season was observed to “Ridge” but luckily it was not severe (See picture).
  • We also observed a baby hammer head shark (1m) leisurely swimming through a group of dolphins.
  • A necropsy was lead by MUCRU vets, Dr Carly Holyoake and Nahiid Stephens, on the Bunbury stranded male calf that we recovered from the Estuary last season and the cause of death was found to be peritonitis.

The South West Marine Research Program (SWMRP) currently has three dedicated assistants; Cam from Canada and Nathasja and Niels from Belgium. Interns who recently finished with SWMRP were Inge, Wils and Isabelle. Inge, from Holland, a Tourism and Environment studies Masters student, finished her report where she looked into human-wildlife interactions. Wils, from America, an Environmental Studies student looked into matriarchal lineages. Isabelle, from Germany, a Biomimetics student looked into the frequency and occurrence of dolphins of concern in Bunbury. Thank you for all your hard work and assistance.

This research is made possible through the partners of the SWMRP, including, the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre, Bemax Cable Sands, BHP Billiton Worsley Alumina, Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre, Bunbury Port Authority, City of Bunbury, Cristal Global, Department of Environment and Conservation, Iluka, Millard Marine, Naturaliste Charters, Newmont Boddington Gold, South West Development Commission and WAPRES.

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