The impact of recreational boats around whales and dolphins in their Australian habitats
As more and more people spend time on the water with each passing year in Australia, whale and dolphin populations will be increasingly encroached upon. Unlike commercial whale watching, recreational boats are not capped, coordinated or restricted to a schedule, and it is easy for each individual boat skipper to see their ‘chance encounter’ as an isolated incident, when it might be one of many for the whale or dolphin community or population on any given day.
However, research from around the world is revealing that the experiences of whales and dolphins around boats is a complex picture, suggesting we need to reassess our assumptions about what individual and population level impacts might be. Boats and the noise they generate are entering into habitat important to the animals and avoiding boats is not necessarily a simple issue. Being forced away can have significant consequences. We may need to reassess the way we monitor these impact levels and the mechanisms we employ to reduce them.