PROTECTION: Baby dolphins like these are born just 50m off Wategos Beach.
PROTECTION: Baby dolphins like these are born just 50m off Wategos Beach. E Hawkins Dolphin Research Australia

Dolphin birth gives rise to marine park support

SEEING a mother dolphin giving birth to her tiny calf 50m off Wategos Beach two weeks ago is a sight Kurt Tutt will never forget

Mr Tutt, owner of Go Sea Kayaks at Byron Bay, said he still got goose bumps thinking about the moment.

He joined Dr Liz Hawkins from Dolphin Research Australia and Karl Goodsell, chief executive officer of Positive Change for Marine Life, at Byron Bay yesterday to call on the NSW State Government to keep marine parks like those at Cape Byron intact.

There is currently an amnesty allowing line fishing from ocean beaches and headlands in sanctuary zones.

At the same time, State Government appointed an Expert Knowledge Panel that undertook a six-month assessment of recreational fishing access to these areas.

Dr Hawkins fears the State Government will make the amnesty permanent when Cabinet meets as expected on Monday.

"Cape Byron marine sanctuary is a critical habitat," Dr Hawkins said.

"For our resident dolphin mother and calf community, this site is critical for their survival. It's a place where they can rest and feed and where they can give birth.

"In sites where there is an overlap between dolphins feeding and high-density recreational fishing we get entanglement, injuries and even death.

"In fact, fishing interactions and competition is the biggest threat to coastal dolphins in the world."

Mr Tutt said any threat to the dolphins' health would impact on valuable tourism businesses.

"We have an abundant sanctuary and a reputation world-wide that brings people to our shores, boosting my business," he said.

"Any changes to the protection of our sanctuary will hurt local businesses like mine, reliant on sanctuaries and wildlife."

A spokesman for North Coast Minister Don Page said the government was considering the panel's advice and would make an announcement in due course.



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