AFD have been working in collaboration with World Animal Protection and Dolphin Marine Conservation Park (DMCP) on a feasibility study into building Australia’s first sea-pen sanctuary to house the five dolphins currently residing at DMCP.
We’ve worked with coastal engineering experts Manly Hydraulics Laboratory (MHL) to analyse wave and climate data in the Coffs Harbour basin. As well as scoping out potential locations and developing concept designs for the sea-pen.
We’ve also hosted a roundtable of animal welfare experts to collect as much information about moving the dolphins as possible, and met with stakeholders around Coffs Harbour to keep the community and officials on board with the proposed plans.
This month, dolphin expert Isabella Clegg flew out from the UK to conduct an animal welfare assessment, to see how the dolphins would fare in a sanctuary environment.
Dr Clegg has a background in animal behaviour and welfare, and a Masters in Marine Mammal Science. As part of her PhD, she developed her own cetacean welfare index, the C-Well Index.
Dolphins are sentient and emotional beings. A number of welfare considerations need to be taken into account to ensure they can thrive in a sanctuary. Dr Clegg has been observing each dolphin’s individual behaviours and personalities. The data she collects will be vital for transitioning them to a sanctuary.
It’s all coming together, but there are still tests to complete before we can commence building the sea-pen sanctuary.
Next we’re looking at testing the acoustics in the harbour to make sure it is a suitable environment for dolphins, who have sensitive hearing.
Stay tuned for more information, and please click here to chip in to this Australia-first study: