Protect Our Dolphins

August 16, 2018

Mr BUTLER (Port Adelaide) (10:38):  The Port River in Adelaide is unique throughout the world as the only place where dolphins reside within a metropolitan city's limits. I am privileged to have my electorate office alongside the Port River. As I walk along the wharf to get a coffee in the morning, I'm often met with the sight of dolphin fins breaking the water no more than a few metres from where I stand. They delight the people of the Port and the many visitors to the area, and, if we're lucky, we might see Tallula or his mum, Wave, tail-walking—the only wild dolphins to do so in the world.

A report by the South Australian Museum that was released in March shows that, of the 35 dolphin deaths in the last 13 years, 17 of them have been due to blunt trauma injury, almost certainly caused by being hit by speeding boats. The joy of this year's dolphin baby boom, with seven new members of the Port River pod—the most in a decade—was steadily crushed, as four of the calves died. Holly, the only calf to be recovered, had suffered blunt trauma injury to the head from a speeding boat as she explored her new home. Although there are many legitimate and careful users of the river—industry, fishermen, recreational sailors and more—these dolphins, in a sanctuary, must have a safe home.

The proposal for a default maximum speed of 10 knots unless otherwise signed, has been championed by the Protect Our Dolphins campaign and marine biologist and Port River dolphin expert Dr Mike Bossley, is not only reasonable but common sense. Currently, parts of the sanctuary have speed limits of four knots and other parts seven knots, and they should remain. But the majority of the sanctuary, unbelievably, is unlimited. Nowhere on an Adelaide street would we accept an unlimited speed, and nor should we in our precious dolphin sanctuary.

Despite repeated appeals from the South Australian shadow minister for the environment and state member for Port Adelaide Dr Susan Close, questions in parliament and a 12,000-strong petition to protect the dolphins that was organised and collected by Ashleigh Pisani of the Portside Weekly Messenger, the Marshall state government is shirking their responsibilities to dolphins of the port. Last week, I wrote to the Premier to urge him to act immediately to impose a speed limit and to protect this unique and precious pod. The Port River Dolphin Sanctuary must be a sanctuary not only in name but also in practice to protect the precious Port River dolphins.