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Dolphins spend a lot of time rounding up food, socialising and sometimes doing things that are hard to understand.

The above image was taken during a recent research survey with the common dolphins living near Mornington. We were taking fin-ID photos to help us estimate numbers, the movement of individuals and their health. 

It’s always a treat to witness their leaps and sometimes full somersaults, as they herd fish or just seem to play. 

Sometimes they do a spyhop where they come up out of the water and splash back down. Their eyesight is good both above and below water, so when they leap or spyhop they can most certainly see other dolphins and boats. Maybe it’s like when we stand on tippy-toes or jump to find our kids or partner in a crowd?

Puzzling though, was the sight of dolphins playing with the big blue blubber jellyfish that were present in huge numbers. We watched them rub the length of their body against the jellyfish, finishing with a flick of their tail. 

These jellyfish are common in Victorian waters and only have a mild sting on their stumpy arms. Who knows – maybe the dolphins were enjoying the sensation of the mild stimulation? Sometimes leaps seem to follow a jellyfish rub. Maybe they were happy? Maybe they were trying to remove the stingers?

Blue-blubber jellyfish are commercially fished, as when dried they are a delicacy in Asian countries. We didn’t see dolphins eat them.       

During our time on the water, we did see a vessel approach and closely follow dolphins. We spoke to them politely and they were keen to find out about these special dolphins. We gave them a copy of the regulations and we watched them slowly move off and not chase after the dolphins.    
Victoria’s regulations state that “People shouldn’t deliberately approach dolphins closer than 100 metres in boats, 300 metres on Jetskis or 30m for paddlers and swimmers”.

If dolphins pop up close to you or approach your vessel, then ideally stop if safe to do so and watch, or slow down and keep your direction. Enjoy and value our remarkable marine treasures, then let them swim off, without following.

More information about the rules and protecting dolphins are available on the Dolphin Research Institute’s website:

Everyone can help the Institute’s long-term research programs by reporting dolphin sightings. They can also join people who have supported the Adopt-A-Dolphin program for 28 years!  Without community support, the Institute’s crucial research and education programs to protect our dolphins and bays will not happen.

To report sightings and support the Institute: or 03 5979 7100.

Surveys are conducted under a Scientific Research Permit from DELWP.

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