Previous research has highlighted that Richards Bay is a hotspot for the Humpback Dolphin (Sousa plumbea), which was recently listed as Endangered on the Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. It is one of the places in South Africa where Humpback Dolphins are most likely to be found…and most likely to become caught in the shark nets. This unintentional entanglement has been identified as major threat to the species, and we’ve learnt that the Richards Bay shark nets have been set in a core feeding area. The loss of dolphins in the nets affects not only the resident Humpback Dolphin population at Richards Bay but also the wider KwaZulu-Natal population, as many transient Humpback Dolphins move through the area. It is abundantly clear that conservation resources could be maximised by focusing efforts in one area, Richards Bay, potentially creating a ripple effect throughout the population of this Endangered species.
So with the strategy “think global, act local” in mind, we examined the dolphins’ interactions with shark nets at Richards Bay more closely. We have now identified the deadliest shark net and aim to understand how the dolphins use the area around this net, hoping to answer questions like: which sections do they use the most, what do they do here (e.g. feed/travel/rest), and how often do they come? The KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board will use this information to make changes to the net to reduce the number of dolphin deaths, without compromising the safety of bathers.
To answer these questions, we recently installed a video camera to monitor dolphins in this focal area and we are broadcasting what this camera sees via our website. This is where you come in! We need help from people who would like to help save the dolphins. The more eyes we have watching the footage, the more likely we are to see the dolphins and collect the relevant data.
If you would like to help, please visit our website, check out our Frequently Asked Questions and watch the live stream. We’d love to be in touch with people who share our passion for dolphin conservation, so please send us a message with your thoughts or questions. You can contact us via email: email@example.com or via our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/conservedolphins
Thank you to the EWT Kelly Legge Dolphin Fund for supporting this work.