Marine Matters – by Phil Coulthard
As featured in the South Western Times – 14/01/16
HAPPY NEW YEAR
Happy New Year to you all and a big welcome to another long hot summer in paradise. Whether you are on a boat, enjoying the beach or relaxing on the banks of the Estuary, our marine wonderland offers so much for all of us at this time of the year so make sure you have a fantastic time, act responsibly and remain safe.
Although the majority of our waterways are very family friendly, the narrow Cut entrance separating Koombana Bay and the Leschenault Estuary remains a real concern. The area is proving to be increasingly popular with kayakers, long-boarders and jet skiers and can be incredibly busy at this time of the year. Understanding that vessels use the area as a navigation channel at high speeds, irresponsible skippers are still towing kids on sea biscuits and allowing swimmers to drift within the channel without floatation devices, safety lines or dive flags. Although there have been no incidents reported to date, a number of near misses over the New Year long weekend suggests that the potential is there for a disaster so please remain alert whenever you are in the area.
The continual build-up of a sand within the Cut channel and west of the Cut opening is also a major concern for mariners trying to navigate in and out of the Bay. Despite the Department of Transport completing a vital rebuild of the northern rock wall last year, the water depth remains less than 1m in places and continues to create a risk for larger boats running aground. The shallow water also generates a consistent and potentially dangerous swell in front of the Cut that will easily swamp smaller vessels. Even during the calmer days when the offshore winds are blowing and the conditions appear ideal, swells rolling in from the south west appear out of nowhere and cause a panic for those who are unaware of the dangers.
Not everyone however appears to be disappointed with the increasing build-up of the sandbank and its associated waves. As you can see from the image the dolphins are also enjoying the moment, surfing the waves whenever they can. Although they are clearly having a great time, they too pose a significant risk to anyone who accidently or intentionally swims in front of them or interacts with them too closely. The risk of injury from dolphins is particularly high within the shallows of the Cut channel where a large sand spit along the inside of the northern rock wall has created a perfect feeding ground. Dolphins are regularly herding schools of whiting and mullet into the shallows and against the wall before attacking them with incredible speed and power. The damage a 200 kg dolphin travelling at 30 km/h chasing fish in such shallow water is considerable, especially for the small children I have seen being encouraged by their parents to wade out to the dolphins in recent weeks (see image below). For this reason the Department of Parks and Wild Life (DPAW) request that the general public understand and appreciate the laws and regulations of interaction and follow the general guidelines that are in place to protect not only us, but the dolphins themselves. These guidelines can be found on the DPAW website www.dpaw.gov.au and encourage us to maintain a safe distance, to reduce our speed, and avoid intentionally feeding or swimming with them whenever they are near-by.
Hi everyone, my name is Phil and I am the Centres marine Biologist and the swimming with dolphins tour host. I just wanted to let you know that the past few weeks has seen a dramatic increase in the number
What an incredible start to the dolphin season! With a relatively quiet winter period now well and truly behind us, the warmer water and perfect weather conditions have sparking a dolphin visits boom.
What an exciting day today for our lucky guests who joined the dolphin sightseeing tour. Not only did they enjoy a large family of dolphins playing in the Bay, but they also had the fortune to observe