Dolphins in spotlight
DOLPHIN spotting is one of Byron Bay's much-loved tourist attractions, and now the future of research into these majestic creatures in the area is assured.
Not-for-profit organisation Dolphin Research Australia, which studies the habits of dolphins in the Byron Bay area - population trends, ecology, health and habitat, and the impact of humans - is celebrating its official launch as an independent organisation.
The organisation also carries out dolphin awareness and education programs in the region.
Audiences range from school children and toddlers to the general public.
Founder and director Dr Liz Hawkins, an independent marine mammal researcher, said the organisation "marries marine research with education and our professional team".
"We're working to conserve and protect our precious marine environment and expand on the limited knowledge and understanding of species ecology," Dr Hawkins said.
"It's a crucial time for our marine life.
Every marine animal, including the dolphin, is facing a rapidly changing world and is increasingly exposed to threats such as habitat degradation, marine pollution and decreasing water quality to name a few.
"It's up to all of us to ensure their environment is protected and conserved for future generations."
The organisation has emerged out of research conducted in the area "under various hats" since 2003, said Dr Hawkins. Dolphin Research Australia will continue that research as a long-term project.
Dr Hawkins described her fascination with dolphins: "They're highly intelligent animals and so similar to us. They're basically us in the sea and we have a responsibility to them."
The organisation will be launched at 12.30pm today at the Byron Bay Brewery.
Want to go to Dolphin Research Australia's official launch?
WHERE: Byron Bay Brewery, Arts Factory and Buddha Bar, 1 Skinners Shoot Rd, Byron Bay
WHEN: Today, 12.30pm to 3pm
TICKETS: $39.50 (includes lunch and complimentary drinks)