The three-year Dolphin Health Project is achieving some important milestones after eight months and sets the scene for some lasting outcomes to benefit the conservation of dolphins.
The analysis of 23 years of historical data was a larger project than we anticipated but now completed, will become a benchmark for future understanding and health assessment.
Over 30,000 film images (from 1992 to 2006) were scanned and along with another 24,000 digital images (from 2007 to 2014), analysed and logged into a database.
We will be able to track the skin health of the bay’s dolphins as a whole and for individuals over nearly a quarter of a century to build up a sense of what is “normal”.
This will allow us to assess the significance of future changes that may be seen in our dolphin communities.
The first phase of this work is now complete and the next phases have begun.
We have also achieved “proof of concept” in both the development of new random transect methodology and citizen science programs for contemporary sampling.
Field trials of the new survey techniques have so far picked up dolphins on every survey, including many young calves in Port Phillip and Western Port.
There is also an action to develop a social marketing program, first in Victoria but with the scope to broaden it nationally. Part of this work includes social research to help understand community perceptions of the marine mammal regulations and to guide communication actions. This work dovetails with the new sticker campaign we started with the state government.
We will also be engaging with the boating industry to develop a buy-in from the engine and jetski companies to support environmental messaging about behaviour around marine mammals.
We will keep you updated on other progress as the project develops.
The Dolphin Health Project is funded by the Australian Government, Department of the Environment, National Landcare Programme –Natural Heritage Trust-Whale and Dolphin Protection Plan-Dolphin Conservation Plan.