Frankston Times 16 March 2021

Page 8


After 30 years dolphin, whale mysteries remain Keith Platt ALTHOUGH it has been 30 years since an organisation was formed to investigate and improve the lives of dolphins in Port Phillip and Western Port, many questions remain unanswered. Solutions to some lifestyle problems have been found, but recent events have again highlighted the mysteries that remain. A sperm whale washed ashore at Phillip Island over the Labor Day long weekend and researchers have been unable to explain why so few dolphins live in Western Port compared to Port Phillip. Executive director of the Dolphin Research Institute, Jeff Weir, said dead whale and dolphin numbers were just two examples of the DRI’s “critical role in filling gaps and finding solutions that are only possible because of the decades of experience, understanding, and skills we have developed”. He said sharing skills with DRI i sea, i care ambassadors, interns and volunteers “empowers them to help us by working as agents of change in their communities”. Mr Weir said Western Port was about 60 per cent smaller than Port Phillip but only had about 10 per cent of the number of resident dolphins. “Nearly three decades of community sighting reports and our own surveys suggest there are about 20,” he said. “These dolphins are a bit of a mystery, so gaining a greater under-

A SPERM whale found stranded on a beach at Phillip Island over the Labor Day long weekend (Picture: Gayle Seddon) above, and a dolphin takes a leap in Western Port. standing of their lives and use of the bay is crucial to their protection.” Mr Weir said the sensitivity of dolphin populations in Western Port had been highlighted in environmental investigations into the impacts of AGL’s proposal to build a gas import terminal in the bay. “Most sightings come from the western side of the bay, but we also have some from Tooradin, north of French Island, Rhyll, San Remo and Cape Woolamai. We also know that some dolphins move between Port Phillip and Western Port,” he said. “A pilot study is underway to investigate the areas dolphins use the most

and how much of their time is spent travelling, feeding, nursing young and interacting with people, vessels and animals.” Mr Weir said the study’s results were “discussed” with the Department of Environment, Water, Land and Planning “to ensure greater protection for these dolphins”. Mr Weir it was “always sad” and there was “no single cause” for whales and dolphins to be stranded. He said early reports about the sperm whale at Phillip Island were confused, with it first being identified as a southern right, then a 10-metre female sperm whale and eventually a

16-metre male sperm whale. DRI research officer David Donnelly correctly identified it from images “soon after the animal was found”. “This is a key role that DRI plays [and] it’s quite frustrating that our team is not called in at the beginning of these incidents, as our many decades of experience would help avoid such confused messaging,” Mr Weir said. “Sperm whales normally feed on squid in thousands of metres of water off the continental shelf. “This whale is at least 400 kilometres away from its normal feeding grounds off western or eastern Bass

Strait. We can only speculate why it has stranded — although solitary strandings of whales sometimes indicate the animal is sick.” Mr Weir said the whale was being left on the beach to decompose and “let nature take its course”.

Celebrate 3 decades THE Dolphin Research Institute will hold the first of several celebrations of its 30th anniversary on from 6.30pm on Saturday (20 March) at Two Bays Brewing, 1/2 Trewhitt Court, Dromana. Bookings:

Memorial for Cameron Smith Brodie Cowburn CAMERON Smith’s life was tragically cut short last year. In November 2020, 26-year-old Cameron Smith was stabbed to death in Seaford. A memorial is now set to be installed on Station Street as a permanent tribute to him. Frankston Council have approved a request from Carrum MP Sonya Kilkenny to install a permanent feature to remember the young man. Ms Kilkenny said “Cam’s father, Michael, reached out to me about a permanent memorial for Cam – somewhere to sit and reflect on a young life cut short and somewhere to sit and reflect on the preciousness of life. I put the proposal to Frankston

Council who have been very supportive and I want to thank Frankston Council for taking this next step in approving the installation of a plaque together with a memorial seat which Cam’s former boss Toby Kennedy and Cam’s workmates would like to make and donate.” “I know this memorial is important not only for Cam’s family but for the Seaford community as well who want to show their support and compassion for this family and everyone impacted by this tragedy. I will now continue to work with Frankston Council on securing the funding,” she said.

COWORKERS of Cameron Smith gathered late last year to pay tribute to him. Picture: Gary Sissons

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Frankston Times

16 March 2021

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