Dolphin populations in the North West are under threat from industrial and port developments yet are being ignored in environmental assessments, research by Murdoch University has found.
In two reports published in the international journal Pacific Conservation Biology, scientists from the university's cetacean research unit found tropical dolphin species were precluded from impact assessments because of outdated data held by the Department of Environment and Conservation that suggested dolphins were not in the areas being assessed.
Recent research by the university identified snubfin, humpback and bottlenose dolphins inhabiting inshore waters of the North West.
The scientists warned urgent changes were required to ensure the protection of dolphin species off the Pilbara and Kimberley, particularly with the number and size of oil and gas projects being considered.
It warned local extinctions of dolphin populations could result from dredging and coastal developments.
"No peer reviewed scientific publications are available on any population of either snubfin or humpback dolphins in north-west Australia," the scientists said.Yet DEC lists the species as priority four fauna, on a scale of one to five, suggesting they have been adequately assessed and are not threatened.
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