The cetacean order of mammals includes whales, dolphins and porpoises. These are then members of one of two suborders - the toothed whales or the baleen whales. The Ningaloo area plays host to six species of toothed whales and eight species of baleen whales (ATA Environmental, 2000). The baleen whales are generally sighted in the deeper waters of the Ningaloo coastline (ATA Environmental, 2000). Five of the eight species of baleen whales found in the region are listed as rare or likely to become extinct (ATA Environmental, 2000).
majority of the dolphins found in Ningaloo Marine Park and Exmouth Gulf are
bottlenose dolphins (Preen et al, 1997). The Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin has
also been sighted in the area (ATA Environmental, 2000). The density of dolphins
in the Ningaloo and Exmouth Gulf area is comparable to the densities found in
the Great Barrier Reef and in Torres Strait (Preen et al, 1997).
|Humpback whales use the southern Bateman Bay area to rest with their calves on their journeys to and from the Southern Ocean.|
The humpback whale is the most regular whale visitor to the Ningaloo Marine Park, passing through twice a year. The first visit occurs in autumn during their northern migration, and they return in their southern migration each spring (ATA Environmental, 2000). Humpback claves and their mothers are known to rest in the calm waters of Bateman Bay, off Maud's Landing (ATA Environmental, 2000). This area of water is directly in front of the proposed development. Southern right whale calves and mothers occasionally enter the same area to rest (ATA Environmental, 2000). Other whales seen in the Ningaloo waters are minke and blue whales (ATA Environmental, 2000). On the odd occasion, killer whales have also been observed (ATA Environmental, 2000).
The major threats that whales and dolphins will be susceptible to with the completion of the proposed Maud's Landing development will be collisions with boats, ingestion of litter, entanglement, and the pressures of more people wanting to see them. These are all wild creatures, therefore an increased people presence and the resulting noise may stop them from entering into Bateman Bay. This could have unforseen consequences on the mothers and calves that use Bateman Bay as a resting point in their long migration.
The increased number of boats in Bateman Bay will increase the likelihood of cetaceans being hit. It will also increase litter levels in the water, creating the potential for the mammals to ingest plastics, a possibly fatal action. Dolphins and whales are also very susceptible to entanglement in fishing lines and nets, which could also be fatal.
An increased number of tourists in the area will mean a greater number of commercial whale watching operators and tours. This has the potential to disturb the natural patterns of these creatures, and may cause them to avoid the area altogether.
Whales and dolphins are an important part of the ecosystem of the Ningaloo area. They add to the biodiversity of the system and enrich people's experiences. If they are driven out of the area, both nature and people will suffer a great loss.
ATA Environmental 2000, Coral Coast Resort Public Environmental Review Document Volume One, ATA Environmental, Perth.
Preen, A.R., Marsh, H., Lawler, I.R., Prince, R.I.T. and Shepherd, R. 1997, 'Distribution and abundance of dugongs, turtles, dolphins and other megafauna in Shark Bay, Ningaloo Reef and Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia', Wildlife Research, Vol. 24, pp. 185 - 208.