Darwin Harbour’s humpback dolphins may be abandoning the area for other waters, according to a new study. For approx three years, researchers for have been monitoring dolphin numbers and their movement patterns in Darwin Harbour, Shoal Bay and Bynoe Harbour. Results showed there was an average of almost 150 dolphins in the three areas over the three-and-a-half-year monitoring period with the Australian humpback dolphin being the most abundant species. 90 dolphins were in the areas, bottlenose numbers were a stable 27 while the Australian snubfin varied widely from 19 to 70 with an average of 41.
Although the study cannot confirm the dolphins were leaving the harbour, due to the relatively small numbers and consequent low rates of observed movement, the report says energy development, shipping, fishing, coastal construction, and in particular increasing noise can be a concern for marine animals.
More research is now needed to conclude whether conservation management programs should be implemented to ensure the future survival of all the dolphin species in the areas.