Marine Parks Association calls for volunteers to join 2018 Port Stephens dolphin census

Join the 18th annual Port Stephens Dolphin Census on June 29. Picture of a pod of dolphins spotted in Port Stephens on May 8, 2018. Picture: Imagine Cruises - Port Stephens
Join the 18th annual Port Stephens Dolphin Census on June 29. Picture of a pod of dolphins spotted in Port Stephens on May 8, 2018. Picture: Imagine Cruises - Port Stephens

The Marine Parks Association is calling on volunteers to join to the 2018 Port Stephens Dolphin Census.

Now in its 18th year, the census provides the association with an insight into the health of the Port’s dolphin population.

Last year’s event, held on June 4, saw 73 people man 49 sites around Port Stephens for the hour-long census.

Most participants took up sites in Hawks Nest-Tea Gardens, Boat Harbour-Birubi and between Nelson Bay and Soldiers Point.

Participation in areas around Karuah, Tiligerry and the western end of the Port was higher than in previous census years, however there were still many vacant areas. 

The 2017 census count of 67 dolphins was lower than the average of 89.2 for the 17-year census period (with a range of 12 dolphins in 2011 to 194 in 2004).

However, the association believed adverse weather, with heavy rainfall and fog reducing visibility, contributed to the low count.

“We do not consider the lower than average result of this year’s census to be reflective of any greater trends in population health,” the association said following last year’s count.

The 2018 census was due to be held on June 3. However, adverse weather forced the association to reschedule it.

The 2018 dolphin census will be held on Sunday, July 29 between 11am and noon.

Census results from 17 Port Stephens community dolphin surveys showing the number of dolphins sighted (blue columns) and the number of annual participants (red line). Image: marineparksassociation.org.au

Census results from 17 Port Stephens community dolphin surveys showing the number of dolphins sighted (blue columns) and the number of annual participants (red line). Image: marineparksassociation.org.au

How will the census work?

During the census on Sunday, July 29 volunteers will be distributed around Port Stephens, and up and down the coast. Each volunteer will be between 1 and 2 kilometres apart.

Additionally, the association is looking for boats to monitor areas within the Port.

At each census site, observers will take photographs and record information about the dolphins encountered during the census period. Each site will require at least one observer for the duration of the census, from 11am to noon.

It is important that everyone participates at the same time so dolphins are not counted twice.

It is also important that volunteers fill in the census form correctly so the official counters can analyse the data and reduce chances of errors.

Observers are asked to attempt to take identification shots of the dolphins they encounter during the census.

At the end of the census, participants will submit their photos and data via the Marine Parks Association website. 

Each census site will receive an official Port Stephens Dolphin Census Kit, including data collection sheets, instructions for filling out the forms and a map of Port Stephens.

What if there is bad weather on the day?

If it is raining and/or very windy making conditions for the census unsuitable, a representative from the Marine Parks Association will attempt to contact each group prior to the scheduled census time to cancel.

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