FAQs

Q?

How close can I get to dolphins? What if they swim up to me?

A.

If dolphins swim up to you, relax and enjoy the experience. Do not be tempted to follow them; there are regulations about the 'approach distances' for people and any wild animal, including dolphins. These have been designed for the safety of both the animal and you.

In Victoria, if you are on a boat - stay 100m away. If you are swimming or surfing, keep 30 metres away. To all our jetskiers - remember to keep 300m from dolphins. If you are using a drone, the minimum approach distances for drones ​is 500m (same as for helicopters). For more details click here.

Again, if dolphins swim up to you, that's great; if they are riding on your bow, swimming around you, enjoy them and do not follow/chase them.

 

Q?

What is the State of the Bays report?

A.

Beginning with Port Phillip and Western Port, the State of the Bays 2016 is the start of an ongoing process to document the environmental health of the bays. It looks at how the bays were made, how they work, and the wonders in the bays, including mammals. Topics covered in detail are water quality, mangroves/saltmarsh, seagrass, reefs, fish and birds. The DRI highly recommends the report as a valuable reference tool. Find it here.

Q?

Where are the best places to see dolphins in Port Phillip?

A.

There are three dolphin swim boats operating in Port Phillip. These are Moonraker, Polperro and Sea All. Two tour boats also run in the bay, South Bay Eco Tours from Queenscliff and Bronze Wing from Sorrento through Moonraker.

The Sea Road ferry between Queenscliff and Sorrento can also be a great place to see dolphins, as they often 'bow ride' alongside.

From the land, the resident dolphins can be seen from Schnapper Point and Mills Beach, both in Mornington.

Dolphins are a protected species - keep your distance. See here for the regulations.

Q?

What do the dolphins in Port Phillip eat?

A.

The bottlenose dolphins tend to eat small snapper, squid, trevally, garfish, flathead etc. The common dolphins tend to eat schooling fish such as anchovies and pilchards, mackerel, garfish, squid etc.

Q?

What are foetal folds?

A.

These are the result of the blubber of the calf being compacted in-utero, a little like a piano accordion. Foetal folds usually fade as the calf fills out and grows. Occasionally they can remain - this is a useful means of identification for researchers.

Q?

What does DRI think about dolphins in captivity?

A.

The question of zoos and captive animals can polarise people; some passionately supportive, some violently opposed, with most of us in the middle. Zoos today must be able to adequately provide for their species and contribute to research, education and conservation.  Without solid wildlife rescue or conservation goals, it is not justifiable to take species from the wild.

At DRI our people have a range of ideological views about zoos, including those with captive cetaceans.  However, we are committed to taking an evidence-based approach to this, as we do on all issues. If a dolphin has been bred in captivity, or rescued and is unable to be released back to the wild, and if the facility can adequately care for the dolphin, then in these circumstances, DRI is not opposed to bottlenose dolphins being kept in captivity.

DRI works with Seaworld in Queensland and the Melbourne Zoo on dolphin health matters and support for emergency responses.

Any legitimate concerns about the welfare of dolphins must be thoroughly investigated and actions based on solid evidence implemented. Exploitative training and inappropriate interaction with people is never acceptable. The welfare of the animals must be paramount and evaluated on the basis of evidence over opinion.

Q?

How long do dolphins live?

A.

Thirty years for a dolphin is probably similar to an 80 year old person. Some can live longer.

Q?

Do we see porpoises in Port Phillip?

A.

No. Porpoises and dolphins are both small, toothed whales but they are different and there are no records of porpoises in our waters. Most porpoise species are only found in the Northern Hemisphere.

Q?

Did channel deepening affect our Port Phillip Dolphins?

A.

It’s now more than five years since it finished, and there is no evidence that the dredging has had any effects on the bay’s resident dolphins.

Q?

How many dolphins live in our bays?

A.

Approximately 100-120 bottlenose dolphins and 18-30 common dolphins are resident in Port Phillip. There are a small number (3-5) resident bottlenose dolphins living in Western Port.  Both bays have regular visits from dolphins that live in Bass Strait, including the largest of the dolphin species, killer whales.

Q?

What about the new species of dolphin in Port Phillip?

A.

The critical understanding about the resident Port Phillip bottlenose dolphin community is that it is a very isolated population, with little mixing with dolphins from outside the bay. This is shown by the Institute's photo-ID work over more than two decades and also genetic studies from tissues obtained by biopsy sampling. This understanding tells wildlife managers that our resident communities are more vulnerable than if they were a fluid part of much bigger populations spreading out across our region.

A paper published by Dr Charlton-Robb in 2011 describes the Burrunan dolphin (Tursiops australis) as a new species resident in Port Phillip and the Gippsland Lakes.

However, the status of this species is questionable, with it being omitted from the most recent list of marine mammal species by the Committee for Taxonomy for the International Society for Marine Mammalogy (publishers of the prestigious journal "Marine Mammal Science"). Their entry about the species is included below and it is linked to the SMM site.

The Burrunan dolphin Tursiops australis, recently described by Charlton-Robb et al. (2011), is not included here; its basis is questionable because of several potential problems: 1) the specimens were compared morphologically only with bottlenose dolphins from Australia; 2) despite the small sample sizes, the series overlapped in all metric characters and separation was possible only with multivariate analysis (which commonly resolves geographical forms within a species, e.g. see Perrin et al. (1999) and Perrin et al. (2011) for Stenella longirostris and Tursiops truncatus, respectively); 3) comparisons of external morphology and non-metrical characters were made only with T. truncatus, to the exclusion ofT. aduncus; and 4) support for important nodes in molecular trees suggesting phylogenetic separation was low. A rigorous re-evaluation of the relevant data and arguments is needed.

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