“Fish tales” from the SWMRP

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Over the past 1.5 years, I have been carrying out dolphin surveys for my PhD in Bunbury, Western Australia, as part of the South West Marine Research Program in stage two of our research. During this time my assistants and I have been boating for over 550 hours. Spending this much time on the water allows us to experience some amazing dolphin behaviour, such as feeding events (see video below courtesy of Seadog Films)!

Over the summer season we commonly encountered large groups of dolphins (>20 individuals) herding schools of fish, such as, whiting and bait fish (see picture below). Seagulls, terns and cormorants would also join in the excitement. Other feeding events have occurred by chance, for example, we recorded the dolphins “Darwin” and “Rio”, who are suspected males, feeding in clear shallow waters last Autumn. Darwin came right up to the boat teasing a small Western Butterfish, whilst Rio chased an Australian Herring.

Bunbury, Western Australia, Australia

A dolphin ‘snacking’ on a hardy head off Bunbury, Western Australia.

In the winter time many of the adult female dolphins and their calves congregate in the inlet where the salt water mixes with the fresh water from the river. The dolphins are commonly foraging in this area and we recently found an adult female dolphin “Tipex”, repeatedly whacking a cobbler fish on the water’s surface (see main image above).


An adult female dolphin, appropriately named “Lunchbox”, feeding on giant cuttlefish off Back Beach, Bunbury.

We have also witnessed several dolphins feeding on cuttlefish and tossing octopus into the air. The giant cuttlefish have occurred off Bunbury during the winter season (see image above), whilst the octopus can be found year round. To date (2012), we have recorded the dolphins Dane, Lunchbox, Boomer and Trio tossing octopus several times in a row high into the air making sure the octopus is dead (see image below).


I would like to thank my excellent assistants for their help in the field and office, and to the funding partners for the  South West Marine Research Program who make our research possible; 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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