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Motion: Committee Established for Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary Inquiry

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. T.A. Franks:

That the Environment, Resources and Development Committee inquire into and report on further legislative and policy measures to better protect the dolphins in the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary and the Port River, with particular consideration to be given to:

1. Limiting dredging;

2. Banning heavy gauge fishing practices and the use of large hooks, live bait and trawling;

3. Larger fines for industry discharge into the Port River;

4. Further speed restrictions on the Port River;

5. Increasing marine safety officers and park rangers;

6. Installation of shellfish reefs;

7. Regular and increased water quality monitoring; and

8. The impact of the die-off of mangroves and saltmarsh at St Kilda on the Port River dolphins.


The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:59): I would like to thank those members who have contributed to this debate and/or indicated their interest in participating in the inquiry. The threats faced by our beloved Port River dolphins are an issue I have spoken about in this place a great many times at this point, but which I hope I will need to speak about less now that this parliament is taking this action through the formation of this select committee.

I have high hopes that the select committee will help tackle the issue. When our disagreements across parties are set aside, parliament is indeed of course meant to be a place where we can collectively work towards improving our state for all who reside in it, including these animals. These particular dolphins have often been placed in tragic situations, and have had their health and safety jeopardised, often largely due to our own impacts on their natural home. It is our responsibility to protect the animals in our state who are suffering and dying, and the Port River dolphins specifically and urgently need that protection, and I am glad to see this council agree.

The pollution in the Port River has been an issue for a long time, and as is the case when these issues go without being adequately addressed, we are seeing the consequences of that. The dolphins who inhabit the river have become susceptible to illnesses, which in turn pave the way for early deaths, for the afflicted dolphins. A recent SARDI report concluded that the deceased Port River dolphins suffered from 'stress, a level of immune suppression, and compounding factors including…diseases…that cause deterioration in condition and organ function, with subsequent starvation'.

We have seen dolphins with infected skin lesions, damaged lungs, ulcers, inflamed organs, depleted white blood cells, and ear infections. The parasites and toxins these dolphins are exposed to suppress their immune system, impact their hearing and reduce their capacity to hold their breath. They seem to be consistently malnourished, and not only are these dolphins suffering from illness, but the effects of such illnesses make them more susceptible to fall victim to accidents, such as being struck by boats.

We know of all of these health issues, and we know that the dolphins keep dying, but we still cannot say with complete certainty what the ultimate cause of death for these dolphins has been due to a lack of enough research and monitoring. That is why a select committee into these Port River dolphins is so important, and it is clear that these dolphins are suffering, that they are dying, and that we humans are not innocent in the pollution of the Port River that is proving to be so harmful to them.

We desperately need to identify the precise cause of death, and we need to ensure that everything that can be done is being done to better treat and care for the dolphins who are currently suffering in the Port River. I am hopeful that this committee will help usher in some real answers and solutions for these dolphins, and that we can act on those answers before more dolphins lose their life.

I note that there was some confusion with regard to the amendment that has been put to the motion before us. The amendment that was originally tabled in the name of the Hon. Robert Simms, but then moved—and I thank the Hon. Nicola Centofanti for her assistance there—simply changes this committee from a referral to the ERD Committee to a select committee of this Legislative Council. It does not change any of the wording of the terms of reference and it provides that that select committee be of four members of this place, and I thank all members who have put their hands up to be on this committee. With that, I commend the motion and the amendment.

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