Behavioural responses of spinner dolphins to human interactions

TitleBehavioural responses of spinner dolphins to human interactions
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsFumagalli, Maddalena, Cesario Amina, Costa Marina, Harraway John, di Sciara Giuseppe Notarbarto, and Slooten Elisabeth
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Type of Article10.1098/rsos.172044
EndNote Rec Number12027

There is increasing evidence that whale and dolphin watching activities have detrimental effects on targeted cetacean populations. In Egypt, spinner dolphins regularly occur in the resting areas of Samadai, Satayah and Qubbat'Isa reefs. In-water human interactions with dolphins are regulated with a time-area closure system at Samadai, unregulated at Satayah and non-existent at Qubbat'Isa. This provided an ideal experimental setting to advance our understanding of the effects of tourism on a species highly sensitive to disturbances. Our study confirmed that the intensity and duration of interactions, and therefore, dolphin exposure to tourism, differed among the study sites. Compared with the Qubbat'Isa control site, behavioural reactions to boats and swimmers at the two tourism sites suggested that dolphin rest was disrupted, especially around the middle of the day and especially at Satayah, where dolphin tourism is unregulated. Our results indicate also that the dolphin protection measures at Samadai reduce the level of disturbance. We recommend that similar measures be implemented at other dolphin tourism locations, and that no new operations be initiated until the long-term impacts on dolphin populations are better understood. Our experience emphasizes the need to adopt precautionary approaches in research and management of whale and dolphin watching.