THE Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary should be a haven, not “a slaughterhouse”, former federal environment minister Tony Burke says.
THE Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary should be a haven, not “a slaughterhouse”, former federal environment minister Tony Burke says. John Jenks

Save dolphins from a ‘slaughterhouse’, Burke pleads

THE Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary should be a haven, not "a slaughterhouse", former federal environment minister Tony Burke says.

The federal Labor spokesman joined the Messenger Community News Protect Our Dolphins campaign, which is calling for a 10 knot (18.5km/h) speed limit in the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, during a visit to Adelaide last week.

Adelaide dolphin expert Dr Mike Bossley took Mr Burke and federal Labor MP for Port Adelaide Mark Butler - a passionate supporter of the POD campaign - out on his boat at Garden Island to discuss the alarmingly high fatality rate of Port River dolphins.

The push to lower the speed limit was triggered by the deaths of four calves in the sanctuary this season.

A recent report by the South Australian museum found 17 out of 35 dolphin deaths in the past 13 years were from blunt trauma impact, which Dr Bossley believes was "almost certainly due to being hit by boats."

"Having a look at it today, the concept of having a sanctuary this close to an urban area is fantastic, but it's got to be a sanctuary not a slaughterhouse," Mr Burke said.

"(I'm) completely stunned (by) the numbers (of deaths) that have been reported to me today.

"If you're faced with those numbers and it wasn't a sanctuary, you would still have a campaign to do something.

"In a sanctuary, it is unthinkable that people aren't acting."

Mr Burke said he and Mr Butler would write to the State Government urging it to introduce a blanket 10-knot speed limit.


Since the POD campaign was launched in April, Transport Minister Stephan Knoll has refused to entertain the idea of changing the speed limit, saying it was "unworkable".

Mr Butler said it was now time to bypass Mr Knoll and call on Premier Stephen Marshall to "deal with this".


"For too long we've had two ministers (Mr Knoll and Environment Minister David Speirs) kicking the matter between each other and if there is a problem with portfolio responsibility then someone should exercise some leadership in the government," he said. "I think (the) petition shows how deeply the South Australian community feels about this."

However, Mr Knoll maintained that "if vessel operators follow all the relevant legislation and do the right thing, a blanket speed limit shouldn't be necessary".

"I'd be more than happy to brief Mr Burke about how a 10 knot blanket speed limit would actually increase the speed limit in places and jeopardise human safety in others," Mr Knoll said.

"Measures are in place to help prevent the chance of an incident and I understand that the Minister for Environment and Water has asked his department to increase speed limit signage in areas within the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary to ensure all users are aware of their requirements."

The Messenger's petition, which was handed to State Parliament in June, has been signed by 12,000 people. It urges the State Government to cap the allowed speed.



The sanctuary's speed limit varies from 4 knots to unlimited, which frustrated locals say turns the area into "a sanctuary in name only".

The idea to introduce a 10-knot limit was put forward by Dr Bossley, who has been studying the Port River dolphins for more than 30 years.

It was his work that led to the creation of the sanctuary in 2005.

"The way to think about this is to think about speed limits on the road," Dr Bossley said.

"The default speed limit on the roads in South Australia is 50km/h unless otherwise signposted.

"That's exactly what is being proposed here - a default speed limit of 10 knots applies unless you see a sign.

"There may be exemptions for things like the Adelaide Speedboat Club but it's a default speed limit in the same way 50km/h is a default speed limit.

"People understand that on the roads, and it should be no different on the water."

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