Important resting places for the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (tursiops aduncus) around Hurghada, Egypt

In reef areas such as Fanous West and Shaab el Erg multiple tourist boats and zodiacs daily follow the dolphins for several hours (see video below). Boats often approach directly right into the group of animals without maintaining any safety distance. Immense numbers of tourists jump from the boats directly into the group of dolphins.

The present “dolphin watching and swimming” activity is often performed without any respect for the wild living animals and injuries and stress of the bottlenose dolphins is not consciously taken into account. Inattentive boat driving is not only a serious risk for the dolphins but also divers on the dive sites are in danger.

There have been serious concerns over the impact of tourism on cetaceans [1-3]. Studies show that dolphins change their behavioral activities, speed and movement, vocalization and even their group structure as a result of the presence of too many boats that come into close proximity [4-8]. This may have a strong impact on the survival of these highly intelligent animals, both at the individual and population level [6]. Data of the project “Dolphin Watch Natural Underwater Science” shows that the reef areas such as El Fanous , Abu Nugar and Shaab El Erg (Dolphin House) are important resting places for these dolphins. They are resting in the early morning hours till early afternoon and use the reef for protection after hunting during all night in the open sea. 198 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) have been identified in the area of Hurghada by using photo-identification techniques. The disturbance by boat activity may be a serious threat as female dolphins mainly nurse their calves while resting. Thus a reduction in the time spent resting could also reduce the time available for nursing, which could result in lower offspring survival [9].

Hurghada is a unique place to observe bottlenose dolphins in the wild. One of the greatest challenges of marine tourism is maintaining economic profitability while protecting and conserving the habitat and wildlife [10].

Only a healthy marine ecosystem can ensure the sustainability of Hurghada’s tourism industry. Thus, actions are absolutely necessary to prevent negative effects on Red Sea’s Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin population. It is imperative that appropriate policies are created and enforced.

References

  1. Corkeron, P.J., Whale watching, iconography, and marine conservation. Conservation Biology, 2004. 18(3): p. 847-849.
  2. Bejder, L., S.M. Dawson, and J.A. Harraway, Responses by Hector's dolphins to boats and swimmers in Porpoise Bay, New Zealand. Marine Mammal Science, 1999. 15(3): p. 738-750.
  3. Constantine, R., D.H. Brunton, and T. Dennis, Dolphin-watching tour boats change bottlenose dolphin(Tursiops truncatus) behaviour. Biological conservation, 2004. 117(3): p. 299-307.
  4. Constantine, R., Increased avoidance of swimmers by wild bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) due to long term exposure to swim with dolphin tourism. Marine Mammal Science, 2001. 17(4): p. 689-702.
  5. Christiansen, F., et al., Effects of tourist boats on the behaviour of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins off the south coast of Zanzibar. Endangered Species Research. 11(1): p. 91-99.
  6. Bejder, L., et al., Interpreting short-term behavioural responses to disturbance within a longitudinal perspective. Animal Behaviour, 2006. 72(5): p. 1149-1158.
  7. Stockin, K.A., et al., Tourism affects the behavioural budget of the common dolphin Delphinus sp. in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand. Marine ecology progress series, 2008. 355(1): p. 287-295.
  8. Lusseau, D., Effects of tour boats on the behavior of bottlenose dolphins: Using Markov chains to model anthropogenic impacts. Conservation Biology, 2003. 17(6): p. 1785-1793.
  9. Stensland, E. and P. Berggren, Behavioural changes in female Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in response to boat-based tourism. Marine ecology progress series, 2007. 332: p. 225-234.
  10. Giannecchini, J., Ecotourism: new partners, new relationships. Conservation Biology, 1993. 7(2): p. 429-432.

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