Dolphin numbers increase as pollution in SA's Port River declines

The Advertiser. By Amelia Broadstock.

PORT River dolphin numbers have increased tenfold in two decades — an environmental triumph experts attribute to improved water quality in the long-polluted industrial area.

In a new study paper soon to be published, Port River dolphin expert Dr Mike Bossley, who has studied the marine mammals for almost 30 years, says the improvement shows that when pollution is reduced “the ocean can heal itself”.

Dr Bossley bases his views on observational surveys of the famous dolphins each year from January 1990 to December 2013. In 1990, he sighted 48 individual dolphins across the year in the inner estuary of the river. In 2013, he recorded 464 dolphins in the same area. And so great has the improvement in numbers been, the Port estuary is nearing its maximum natural dolphin capacity.

“Sooner or later the time is going to be reached where the environment can only support so many and I suspect we’re getting close to that if we haven’t reached it now,” he said.

Dr Bossley said his long-term studies suggested dolphin numbers had risen because water quality had improved in the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, created in 2005 and one of the world’s few environmental sanctuaries in an urban industrial area. Better water quality meant more fish and other marine creatures that form dolphin diets.

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