The North West Cape, Western Australia: a potential hotspot for Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins Sousa chinensis?
Brown, A, Bejder, L, Cagnazzi, DDB, Parra, GJ & Allen, SJ 2012, 'The North West Cape, Western Australia: a potential hotspot for Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins Sousa chinensis?', Pacific Conservation Biology, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 240-246.
Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins Sousa chinensis (Humpback Dolphins hereafter) are listed as ‘near threatened’ on an international level and ‘migratory’ in Australian waters. There is limited information on Humpback Dolphins in Western Australian State waters, where the species remains unlisted. This lack of knowledge hinders the management and conservation of the species in a region of rapidly increasing coastal development. We conducted opportunistic boat-based surveys in April 2010 and present data on the location, size and composition of Humpback Dolphin groups encountered in the near-shore waters around the North West Cape, Western Australia. A total of 42 groups were encountered in a variety of habitats during 145 h on the water over ca. 80 km coastline. Group size ranged from 1 to 15, with a mean (± SE) of 5.3 (± 0.48) individuals. A total of 54 Humpback Dolphins were identified from photographs of the unique markings on their dorsal fins. The lack of a plateau in the cumulative discovery curve of identified individuals over the duration of the study suggests that only a subset of dolphins in the area was identified. This region is close to the south-western limit of the species’ Australian distribution and appears to represent an important location for Western Australian Humpback Dolphins. In light of increasing anthropogenic activity around the North West Cape and Exmouth Gulf, these preliminary findings from a limited survey effort indicate that further research into this population is required