Whales Alive's Liz Hawkins has just completed an action packed dolphin research summer field season. For just over four weeks, her team of over 40 volunteers from the Dolphin Ecology & Acoustics Project (DEAP) observed the dolphins in Byron Bay, northern New South Wales. From the top of the Cape Byron Lighthouse and from boats and kayaks, volunteers made observations on the dolphins and marine activities occurring in the Bay. The season began with some amazing weather, great dolphin action and good data.
This time of year is the peak of the bottlenose dolphin birthing season. This year, there were many healthy newborn calves seen. Many resident dolphins were seen again, some with new calves and some babysitting. There was plenty of dolphin action. On one day, almost 200 dolphins were seen in the morning!
The DEAP research team was not only gathering data to investigate the ecology of resident dolphins, but also the impacts of human activities, particularly tourism. There were unfortunately a number of cases of harassment and people breaking the NSW Dolphin Watching Regulations. The DEAP team were actively educating people who did the wrong thing and making sure the dolphins were left to rest and nurture the newborns undisturbed.
The DEAP team will continue their field collection in the coming months to uncover more of the mysteries of Byron Bay's resident dolphin population.