Australian Snubfin Dolphin
Exciting new Australian Snubfin Dolphin project for EK
EK has received funding from the WA State NRM Community Grants Programme for a project on our continent’s only endemic dolphin – the Australian Snubfin Dolphin. We are working with marine scientist Dr. Deb Thiele and Yawuru Rangers to gain a greater understanding of the ‘snubbies’ in Roebuck Bay so that future management plans and the community can help protect the species. This project builds on work conducted by Dr. Thiele since 2006, funded by the Federal Government, the state Department of Environment Conservation as well as ongoing work by WWF Australia.
Roebuck Bay is rich in biodiversity. Part of it is listed as a Ramsar wetland of international significance. It contains a complex of habitat types (extensive mangal system, salt flats, seagrass beds, wide mudflats, sand flats, rocky reefs), which support an abundance of wildlife. It is an important area for migratory birds, turtles, sharks, dolphins, rays, fish and dugong, and has one of the richest benthic environments in the world.
This beautiful bay is a hotspot for the endemic Snubfin Dolphin, one of very few such areas in its range, which covers tropical inshore waters from Broome around the Top End to the Fitzroy River/Keppel Bay area in Queensland. Roebuck Bay is thought to have the greatest concentration of this species in Australian waters during peak socialising season (June/July). Along the rest of the Kimberley coast Snubfin groups are widely separated and found in low numbers. Roebuck Bay may play a central role in the continuity of this species, providing the dolphins with abundant food and opportunities for socializing and mating, so maintaining their genetic diversity.
This is the only area in Australia where the Snubfin is the most numerous dolphin species. Elsewhere, the Bottlenose or the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin is more numerous.
Information from regular marine wildlife surveys in Roebuck Bay (for habitat use, estimated population, threats, behaviour and life history data) will be combined with measurements of water quality, which is known to be correlated with the distribution of dolphins and their prey. This information will help identify key Snubfin Dolphin foraging habitat in Roebuck Bay, and will be an important tool for marine park planning and useful for the community, so that the Kimberley snubbies can be protected into the future.
Martin Pritchard and Dr Deb Thiele
Have you seen snubbies?
If you head out into the Bay or along the coast, do take a camera with you. Snubbies are individually identifiable by marks on their fins and scarring. We’re adding to a catalogue of snubby photos to try to find out how many are in the Bay and where they travel to.
If you have photos of snubbies, please email them to Dr Deb Thiele at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is really important to take a GPS reading to send in with the sighting information. If you don’t have a GPS please write down a description of the location, e.g. 1.5 nm off Entrance Point. Or you can borrow a GPS for a day from EK. We really need your help with this; you will be making a great contribution to Snubfin science!! Thank you.