PROTECTING PODS: Kaye Walker and Tracy Chapman are hoping to establish a dolphin research group locally.
PROTECTING PODS: Kaye Walker and Tracy Chapman are hoping to establish a dolphin research group locally. Bruce Thomas

Understanding dolphin behaviour

THEY catch waves with Sawtell surfers and dance in the water much to the delight of spectators but what do we actually know about this popular pod of locals and the rest of our dolphin population?

Tracy Chapman and Kaye Walker are seeking to better understand the behaviours of these cetaceans and they need your help.

With a background in marine biology and marine tourism consultancy, Kaye Walker is affiliated with Southern Cross University, giving the dolphin research group strong academic support.

She said currently there was no base line data on the dolphin population in Coffs Harbour. While research is being undertaken at Byron Bay and Port Macquarie there is a gap in the middle, a hole which she hopes local volunteers will help fill.

In establishing a research body they hope to increase awareness and interest to further our understanding of these playful creatures.

Ms Walker said that you can't make management decisions like assessing the impact of marine tourism expansion on local dolphins without data.

Tracy Chapman is passionate about the welfare of dolphins and said we know very little about those living locally.

"We only have a vague idea of where they travel, we don't know how many there are, how they interact or where they feed," Ms Chapman said.

"If for example in rezoning the Solitary Islands Marine Park, more areas were opened up for fishing, this effect on our dolphin population could not be measured because we lack the data."

They are calling on volunteers to help conduct the research and are hoping photographers, observers and skippers will get on board.

Their push for research and awareness comes as the horrific scenes of dolphins being slaughtered, which were exposed in the Academy Award winning film 'The Cove', are being re-lived. The annual dolphin hunting season in Taiji, Japan, started two weeks ago.

Ms Chapman said that on Saturday October 8, a month after the official start of the drive in Taiji, a group of local people will lead a positive meeting to celebrate dolphins worldwide, in a 'We Dig Our Dolphins Celebration / Save Japan's Dolphins' day.

"Bring your dolphin-themed toys, photos to stick to our 'Celebrating Dolphins' banner, T-shirts, boards, bathers, towels, hats etc to pay respect to our local dolphins and respectfully acknowledge the plight of the dolphins in Japan."

If you are interested in being part of the dolphin research group or would like to celebrate these cetaceans, head to Sawtell Beach on the lawn outside the Surf Life Saving Club at noon on October 8. For more information contact Tracy on 0408 919733 or Kaye on 0428 122766.



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