Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:48): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing questions to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation on the topic of government resourcing for the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Yesterday, it was reported in the media that a bottlenose dolphin by the name of Graze, who died in Adelaide's Port River last December, was shot. Through necropsy (animal autopsy) the cause of death was confirmed by Dr Mike Bossley, from the Whale And Dolphin Conservation group. The mammal's body was found to contain four shotgun pellets, and the state Museum, which carried out the examination, says it appears that the dolphin took some time to die.

Unfortunately, this sickening act was not an isolated event. According to Dr Bossley, about 30 dolphins live in the sanctuary, with about three reported injured each year. Even Graze, the dolphin that died, had sustained a large wound many years earlier. He said that shotgun pellets had been found in other dolphins and beyond the sanctuary zone, despite both dolphins and whales being protected by law.

Dr Bossley also raised concerns that the government had lost interest in the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, given that it has cut the number of sanctuary rangers from three to two and has also axed the advisory board, as was reported in interviews with Dr Bossley on ABC News and other media yesterday. My questions are:

1. Given that the minister himself has described the shooting as deeply disturbing, will he act upon calls for more extensive patrolling by reinstating the third sanctuary ranger and the advisory board?

2. Does the minister agree that three dolphins, or roughly 10 per cent of the local dolphin population, being injured each year is unsatisfactory?

3. Given that within the past week we have learnt that asbestos has been illegally dumped near the dolphin sanctuary, and that Graze was shot in December, how would the minister rate the effectiveness of his government's support for Adelaide's dolphin sanctuary?

4. What other safeguards and resourcing will the minister put into place to prevent more dolphins being shot or injured?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) (14:50): I thank the honourable member for her very important question. I do not know what sort of low-life you would have to be to go out and shoot a dolphin; I find it not only distressing but also bewildering to contemplate. Nonetheless, we are faced with a situation where someone apparently has done that.

I was advised that late last year a dead dolphin was reported by a local fisher in the Port area. Departmental staff collected the animal by boat on the same day it was reported and took it to the South Australian Museum for a necropsy. A post-mortem that has recently been conducted by museum staff has revealed that the adult dolphin died from wounds consistent with a shotgun injury. As I said, I find it quite disturbing that anyone would go out to shoot a dolphin deliberately.

Adelaide is fortunate to have a resident dolphin population in our Port River, and the creation of the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary underlined the importance of these animals to our community. The Port River and the Barker Inlet Estuary are home to a resident population of between 20 and 30 bottlenose dolphins, and I am told that the area is also visited by a high number of transient bottlenose dolphins that live outside the area.

Since the establishment of the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary in 2005, conservation officers and other Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources staff have patrolled the Port River and the Barker Inlet Estuary to protect the dolphins that live there from direct physical harm, as well as from unintentional, over-friendly harm. I am advised that since the creation of the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary this is the first dolphin death attributed to deliberate physical harm from human beings. In one way this is, I suppose, a testament to the importance and success of the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, as well as of the hard work and dedication of departmental staff and volunteers from right across the community

Departmental staff regularly conduct non-water and land-based patrols within the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary to monitor and police the behaviour of those within the sanctuary, and the department fully investigates any reports of attack or injury to dolphins, whether they be deliberate or unintentional—and there is unintentional injury to dolphins, as I alluded to earlier. Compliance activities, reported dolphin deaths and injuries are reported on a quarterly basis, I understand, to the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary advisory board and are summarised in the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary annual report, which is provided to me. All information concerning any witness reports, intelligence and investigations of offences against dolphins in the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary are kept on the department's compliance database.

The department regularly conducts community engagement days to remind the public of how they can reduce the risk of potential physical harm to dolphins, and media releases are issued following any incident to remind the public of the laws protecting marine mammals. All offences against marine mammals (including dolphins, of course) are considered serious in nature and, as such, are prosecutable under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 or the Marine Mammal Regulations 2010. I am told that fines of up to $100,000 and/or two years' imprisonment apply.

Departmental staff are currently exploring options to gain some further information on the shooting. They are speaking with the public, and we are asking anyone who may have information regarding this event to contact the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary on (08) 8240 0193. I would also encourage anyone with information about the shooting to report it immediately to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. The department will also work with DPTI, police and fisheries officers, who also have an on-water presence in the sanctuary, to maintain a watch in areas of particular interest in the sanctuary that might come to their attention through information from the public or through their own knowledge.

It is important to recognise that, ultimately, the long-term safety and welfare of the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary's dolphins lie with our community being aware of appropriate behaviour around dolphins and showing a willingness to report incidents where people break the law in relation to dolphins and other protected marine mammals.

As part of the reorganisation of the department in terms of our regional structures, three Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary staff (one manager and two conservation officers) joined the regional coast and marine team. This arrangement has enabled the department to allocate more resources to protecting the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary when and where needed. This has also had the benefit of connecting the management and protection of the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary with the broader coast and marine environments within the regions. I am told that this arrangement took effect on 1 October 2013.

My advice is that, as a minimum, three staff from this new team continue to be located at Port Adelaide and are responsible for the management of the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary and associated marine and coastal areas. On-water and land-based patrols of the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary continue to occur regularly, is my advice.

The Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary board will not be abolished. Sir, as you would be aware, the Premier announced in July 2014 the review and reform of all boards and committees within South Australia. The reform was aimed at strengthening and broadening the way in which government engages with the community and makes decisions. The reform also aimed to reduce administrative burden, improve accountability and governance and help to deliver outcomes in a more cost effective manner.

On 30 October 2014 the Premier released a final report detailing the outcomes of the reform project. The final report was prepared following a rigorous analysis of each board and committee against a set of five criteria established by the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. As part of the process, individual responses that were received from each board or committee were also assessed and taken into consideration. The report, I understand, is publically available on the yourSAy website.

In accordance with the objectives of the review, it has been recommended that the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary Advisory Board be merged with the Marine Parks Council, the Wilderness Advisory Committee, the National Parks and Wildlife Council and the Marine Parks Scientific Working Group. This recommendation has been made on the basis that the merger of the functions of these committees into a single parks and wilderness council will result in enhanced productivity and performance of these bodies. Locating these functions in a single body will facilitate streamlined, efficient decision making from a holistic perspective.

However, notwithstanding events in the lower house as have been reported in the media, the final outcome is still subject to parliamentary processes, not the least being in this chamber, with any changes being subject to amendments being made to the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary Act 2005. The Statutes Amendment (Boards and Committees—Abolition and Reform) Bill 2015 was introduced in parliament on 12 February, as I understand it, commencing this legislative reform process.

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