Abundance and distribution of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins at the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant, Binningup, Western Australia.
Buchanan, V., Pollock, K., Smith, H. and Bejder, L. (2011) Abundance and distribution of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins at the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant, Binningup, Western Australia. In: 48th Annual Conference of the Australian Marine Science Association, 3 - 7 July, Fremantle, Western Australia.
Water shortage is becoming more evident in Australia. In response, water desalination plants are being proposed and constructed at numerous locations along the Australian coastline. The Water Corporation (principle supplier of water, wastewater and drainage services in Western Australia) is constructing a seawater desalination plant near Binningup, Western Australia. The long-term impact of discharged hyper-saline water on wildlife in the near-shore marine environment is as yet unknown. Here, we report on a two-year, intensive research program, initiated by the Water Corporation, aimed at obtaining baseline estimates of abundance and residency patterns of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) prior to the commencement of hyper-saline water discharge. The study area extends 3nm offshore, 9.5nm to the south and 19nm to the north of the discharge site. To date, fortytwo boat-based surveys covering the complete study area have been carried out. Using standard photo-identification methods, we have identified 256 individual dolphins within 186 dolphin groups in the study area. Our field protocols of intensive systematic sampling provide even temporal and spatial effort across the two year study period. This in turn will allow accurate abundance and emigration rate estimates to be calculated, for the local dolphin population, using Pollock’s Robust Design. The results will provide a baseline dataset for future comparisons to evaluate the possible long-term impacts of hyper-saline water discharge on the local marine wildlife. The pro-active approach by the Water Corporation to obtain a pre “impact” dataset of an appropriate temporal scale is commendable and serves as an ideal template for the design of a rigorous impact assessment study.
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|Murdoch Affiliation:||School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology|
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