Regional assessment of the conservation status of snubfin dolphins (Orcaella heinsohni) in the Kimberley Region, Western Australia
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Implementing conservation measures for data-limited species is a fundamental challenge for wildlife managers and policy-makers, and proves difficult for cryptic marine animals occurring in naturally low numbers across remote seascapes. There is currently scant information on the abundance and habitat preferences of Australian snubfin dolphins (Orcaella heinsohni) throughout much of their geographical range, and especially within the Kimberley region of northern Western Australia. Such knowledge gaps curtail rigorous threat assessments on both local and regional scales. To address this and assist future conservation listings, we built the first comprehensive catalog of snubfin dolphin sightings for the Kimberley. We used these data to estimate the species’ extent of occurrence (EOO) and area of occupancy (AOO) along the region’s 7,000 km coastline, following a simple Bootstrap bivariate kernel approach to combine datasets of varying quality and quantify uncertainty. Our catalog consists of 1,597 visual detections of snubfin dolphins made over a period of 17 years (2004–2020) and collated from multiple sources, including online biodiversity repositories, peer-reviewed scientific articles, citizen science programs, as well as dedicated marine wildlife surveys with local Indigenous communities and Ranger groups. Snubfin dolphins were consistently encountered in shallow waters (2 and 700 (656–736) km2 respectively, suggesting that snubfin dolphins in the Kimberley are likely Vulnerable under IUCN criteria B2 at a regional scale, in keeping with their global classification. Our study offers insights into the distribution of a vulnerable coastal cetacean species and demonstrates the value of integrating multiple data sources for informing conservation assessments in the face of uncertainty.
Bouchet , P J , Thiele , D , Marley , S A , Waples , K , Weisenberger , F , Rangers , B , Rangers , B J , Rangers , D , Yawuru Rangers , N B , Rangers , N N , Rangers , U & Raudino , H 2021 , ' Regional assessment of the conservation status of snubfin dolphins ( Orcaella heinsohni ) in the Kimberley Region, Western Australia ' , Frontiers in Marine Science , vol. 7 , 614852 . https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2020.614852
Frontiers in Marine Science
Copyright © 2021 Bouchet, Thiele, Marley, Waples, Weisenberger, Balanggarra Rangers, Bardi Jawi Rangers, Dambimangari Rangers, Nyamba Buru Yawuru Rangers, Nyul Nyul Rangers, Uunguu Rangers and Raudino. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
DescriptionThis research was financially supported by the following organizations: The Australian Marine Mammal Centre, Mia J. Tegner Award, The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society UK (WDCS), W. V. Scott Estate, Commonwealth Department of Environment (Caring for Our Country), WWF Australia, the Western Australian Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, and Ghostnets Australia.
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