The Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) has a medium grey back above a pale or light grey flank or belly. The beak is short, wide and rounded. The average dolphin lives for over 30 years and grows to over 2 metres long; calves are about 30-60 cm at birth. This species is common in warm temperate waters all over the world.
The Koombana Bay resident dolphin population totals about 50 animals. Another 100+ dolphins visit throughout the year, particularly during the summer. Different groups occupy separate territories, however an area north of the Bay near the “Cut” seems to be a popular meeting and resting area. Dolphins are also regularly sighted throughout the local estuary and river systems.
Current research is providing us with more information on the various groupings of dolphins in the area as well as seasonal changes within the region.
Calves tend to be born between February and May. At these times it is even more important that nursing dolphin groups be afforded extra space.
Living With Dolphins
Dolphins form part of the natural food chain. They feed on fish, and they in turn are preyed upon by sharks. To help maintain this natural environment, State laws expressly prohibit the unauthorised feeding of dolphins for a number of reasons:
- Uncontrolled feeding may expose the dolphins to disease or injury. They may also have difficulty in maintaining their health if their daily requirement of fish is not met.
- Dolphins scavenging for fish may become entangled in fishing line or hooked on gear.
- Dolphins may accept fish that is not fresh, causing them to become ill.
- Uncontrolled feeding can decrease the dolphins’ ability to care for themselves and their offspring.
- Dolphins who become scavengers instead of hunters for their food can disrupt fishing activities and cause frustration and annoyance to fishermen.
Interacting With Dolphins
Wild dolphins are delightful creatures that most people enjoy having around. The local Bunbury dolphins are easy to observe whether from the beach, a groyne or a boat. A fortunate few have even had dolphins approach them in the water. These types of activities are exhilarating and provided they are conducted in a responsible manner do not cause any detriment to the dolphins or the observer.
Swimming With Dolphins
While some people may consider swimming with dolphins an invigorating experience it is not recommended unless on an authorised tour. In the wild, dolphin groups consist of animals with strong social ties. Your intrusion into the group could disrupt important natural behaviours that are vital to the dolphins’ well-being and may even be seen as a threat.
What do you do if a dolphin approaches you while fishing?
Briefly pull in your lines until the dolphin has passed. If the dolphin is begging for fish, enjoy the encounter but do not feed the dolphin. And please, do not try to touch the dolphin. When you have finished fishing, do not discard bait or fish scraps near dolphins.
Boating With Dolphins
Guidelines have been developed to ensure the safety of both dolphins and humans. Please apply them when boating near the dolphins.
- Let the dolphins approach you, not the other way around
- Do not approach dolphins “head on” under power
- Do not approach a dolphin closer than 10 metres
- Do not “box” dolphins in or cut off their path of movement
- If the animals become disturbed or if they keep moving away, abandon contact with the dolphin(s) immediately
- When leaving, move off slowly to at least 10 metres from the closest animal before picking up speed. This is particularly important for speed boat and jet ski users
- Stay well clear of dolphins when they are feeding, mating, fighting, resting or when a new born calf is present
The Dolphin Discovery Centre provides an educational experience along with the opportunity to see wild dolphins at close quarters.