Bunbury Dolphins Deserve Dedicated Research Support

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South West Greens MLC Diane Evers has expressed concerns that the WA Government is not meeting the necessary standards required to protect the health and wellbeing of the dolphin populations ahead of planned Koombana Bay marina developments.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for fisheries and marine, said she was alarmed by potentially irreversible environmental impacts the nearby development could have upon Bunbury’s dolphin population, with further research necessary in order to protect the welfare of the aquatic mammals.

According to parliamentary questions from Ms Evers to Environment Minister Stephen Dawson in 2019, the most recent dolphin population study was undertaken in 2013.

Ms Evers said she was concerned by a lack of ongoing research into dolphins, including the local population’s health, impact of boating movements and effects of tourism hand-feeding provisioning programs.

Last month, Minister Dawson confirmed data collection and analysis is currently not being undertaken by Murdoch University on behalf of the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre and the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) with regards to hand-feeding tourism activities.


“The WA Government has committed over $100 million dollars to the Bunbury waterfront transformation project, including the construction of new breakwaters at Casuarina Boat Harbour and Koombana Bay.

“While I understand some community desire for this investment, I remain very concerned about the health and wellbeing of the dolphins in the Bunbury area.

“Such a significant project must take into account the protection of the dolphin population so precious to those waters.

“A lack of support for environmental research by the WA Government and delayed Environmental Protection Authority assessments could mean the environmental impact of the expected development may not be known until it is too late.

“The proposal for this marina is in close proximity to the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre (BDDC), which engages in hand feeding of dolphins for tourism purposes.

“Concerns have been raised with my office that the marina development, along with these local hand-feeding provisioning practices, may be negatively impacting the welfare of local dolphin populations.

“According to the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, ‘habitat degradation, increased vessel traffic, tourism, illegal food provisioning, entanglement in marine debris, noise pollution, environmental contaminants and disease all threaten the health of the local dolphin population’.

“Government investment into proper research is crucial to mitigate such risk, and it is critical that the WA Government does not simply prioritise tourism over dolphin welfare.

“There is currently no funding arrangement between the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions and Murdoch University to undertake data collection and analysis on hand-feeding, with the Department instead relying on the BDDC’s own provisioning program to inform a review.

“I recognise that environmental studies are currently being undertaken by the South West Development Commission to support an environmental assessment, but with no population studies of dolphins inhabiting Bunbury coastal and inland waters completed since 2013, I encourage the WA Government to do what it can to support well-funded, independent research in this matter.”

Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

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