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North West Cape, Exmouth: A hotspot for Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) in Western Australia

Bejder, L., Allen, S., Brown, A., Cagnazzi, D., Organ, T. and Parra, G. (2011) North West Cape, Exmouth: A hotspot for Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) in Western Australia. In: 48th Annual Conference of the Australian Marine Science Association, 3 - 7 July, Fremantle, Western Australia.


The Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis – ‘Sousa’ hereafter) has been identified as a “priority concern” for conservation management in Australia. Currently, no peer-reviewed scientific literature exists on Sousa in Western Australian waters, where they are listed as a “data deficient” species. This lack of available information hinders rigorous impact assessments, as well as conservation and management efforts for this coastal species. As part of broader studies estimating genetic connectivity for three coastal delphinids (Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops aduncus; Australian snubfin dolphins, Orcaella heinshoni; and Sousa) across northwestern Australia, photo-identification images of Sousa groups were obtained off the North West Cape from Ningaloo Reef to Exmouth, WA (21o56’S, 114o07’E). Preliminary results of the non-dedicated photo-identification efforts identified fifty-three adult and juvenile Sousa and six calves during 18 days of, or part there-of, survey effort in April 2010 over ca. ~80 km coastline of the near-shore waters around the Cape. A continued increase in the cumulative discovery curve of photoidentified individuals throughout the short study period indicates that only a subsection of Sousa in the area was identified. The North West Cape, Exmouth, represents the southwestern limit of the species’ Australian distribution and may be an important stronghold for Sousa in Western Australia. These initial findings indicate further research into this population of Sousa is urgent given the recent opening of the Exmouth Gulf to petroleum exploration, coupled with increasing port and tourism activities in the area.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research
School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
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