Introducing Australia’s native dolphin the Snubfin Dolphin, or as they are affectionately known, snubbies. This year's NAIDOC theme “Heal Country” has brought the importance of protecting our beautiful country to the forefront of our minds. Snubfin Dolphins are just one of Australia’s incredible unique species that we should celebrate and protect. Sadly, they are at risk of extinction due to the impact of fishing on both them and their habitat. Today we explore these dolphins' unique nature, the threats they face and what we can all do to help.
Snubfin Dolphin. Courtesy of National Geographic, 2014.
Snubfin Dolphins were only identified as their own species in 2005, making them one of three known species that are endemic to Australia. They live in small isolated groups along Australia’s northern coastline from the Kimberly to Gladstone. Spotting them can be quite tricky; unlike other dolphin species they are quite shy (WWF, 2014). They tend to stay low in the water and only leap and splash when they don’t have human company around. They are recognised by their distinctive rounded head and tiny dorsal fins earning them their name snubfin (AMCS, 2021).
Currently, numbers of these dolphins are so low that they are considered vulnerable to extinction. Being a coastal species the key threat that they face is incidental capture in netting, particularly large scale gill nets. These huge nets act as invisible walls and are a huge issue for all of our precious marine wildlife. Other threats include destruction of habitats such as mangroves and the loss of seagrass. Shark attacks and also boat strikes have a big impact on snubbies. These dolphins also have low population growth rates, making them particularly susceptible to decline (AMCS, 2021).
Snubfin Dolphin. Courtesy of James Cook University, 2017.
There are currently a number of groups working hard at protecting these gorgeous creatures. Huge amounts of community support has been expressed for the Roebuck Bay Marine Park in the Kimberley. When the park was announced, scientists campaigned for it to include a no-fishing marine sanctuary zone to protect marine life, but the government released its draft plan without one. Marine sanctuary zones are essential so wildlife is completely protected and not impacted by recreational fishing, dredging and other activities that are still allowed in Marine Parks (Young, 2015).
Locals protesting to protect the Snubfin Dolphin in Roebuck Bay. Courtesy of The Kimberley, 2021.
So, what can you do to help protect the Snubfin Dolphin? You can support Roebuck Bay and other marine parks in the Kimberley by sending a message here.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society is also pushing hard for the protection of this endangered species in Queensland through calling all involved parties to end gill netting in high conservation value areas. You can support their campaigns through adding your name to their petitions here or donating here.