In March 2018, the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council was requested by the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, the Hon Lily D’Ambrosio MP, to carry out an assessment of the values of Victoria’s marine environment.
The purpose of the assessment was to identify Victoria’s marine values, identify the current and likely future threats to these values, provide independent advice on future patterns, trends and direction related to existing and emerging uses, processes for classifying social and economic values, and data inventory including identifying knowledge gaps.
How was the Marine Mammal Foundation involved?
The Marine Mammal Foundation was approached for guidance on the Assessment, and to provide distribution maps and lists of marine mammal across coastal Victorian waters. Our research, undertaken by MMF PhD candidate Chantel Foord and MMF Director Dr Kate Robb, assessed the marine mammal record dating back to the 1800’s to gain an understanding of the occurrence of resident and migratory species, and asses the geospatial drivers that may influence the distribution.
We conducted a thorough literature review and compiled known data and created distribution maps for the Assessment, that included blue whale, humpback whale, killer whale and southern right whale sightings since 1990; Haul out sites and seal colonies across the state and the Burrunan dolphin stranding record.
Importantly, we incorporated our knowledge on the Burrunan dolphin (Tursiops australis), a new dolphin species formally discovered, described and named by Marine Mammal Foundation Executive Director, Dr Kate Robb. Dr Kate is the world’s leading expert on the Burrunan and has worked tirelessly on gaining a greater understanding of the species, with over 17 years experience in the field, in museums and genetics labs. Project Burrunan, is the only research of its kind in Australia to focus on the Burrunan, which is listed as endangered under Victoria’s Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. It is great to see the Burrunan dolphin not only appear on the front cover of the Assessment but also feature throughout the report, and in particular listed first on Natural Values for many locations across the State.
We are proud of the research we undertake, it is not just science for science sake, nor is it fluffy science without purpose. We are pleased to have numerous papers now under review in reputable international scientific journals, to present our research and outreach initiatives at national and international conferences, and in schools and to community groups, and importantly use the research for greater conservation, protection and management of our amazing marine mammals and their environment.
The report highlights the importance between robust science and government management and policy, for the conservation and understanding our Victoria’s coastal values, now and into the future.
The full report is available here