Saturday, January 21, 2006

Small changes but dolphin's feeding continue

It's official, Dolphin feeding at Tin Can Bay in Queensland will continue.
Last October Environment Minister Desley Boyle outlawed the practice and warned that anyone caught breaking the rule would be fined.But public pressure forced the Queensland Government to rethink their position and yesterday the Environment Minister admitted she had made a mistake and officially restarted the tradition.

Two dolphins, named Mystique and Patch have been swimming into Tin Can Bay inlet on a daily basis for over two decades to be fed by the public. Tin Can Bay Café owner and dolphin feeding organiser, Troy Anderson, says getting the official word is a big relief."It'll be great to continue and not have to watch over your back for an EPA officer with a set of handcuffs".With the approval comes a new agreement between the organisers and the Environmental Protection Agency, but Troy says the guidelines for feeding the dolphins hasn't changed significantly."90 per cent of them are the same as last time.

There are just a few extra clauses that we wanted and they wanted. So, we sat down before Christmas and had a meeting and went through them and reached a very good compromise".The changes include an extension of feeding hours and requirements on storing fish correctly."We can feed now between 8am and 12pm instead of 8am and 11am, which gives us a little more time if they do come in a little bit later. But the quantity we feed them, the 3kilos remains the same. Like I said, 90 per cent of the guidelines didn't have to change - it was just a matter of clearing up a few little sketchy paragraphs in the last one".

So, has the way you store fish changed? "No nothing, they've always been stored in the freezer and frozen immediately as they're brought in and dated on the bag so they can't be kept for any longer... The agreement use to say 6 weeks but we've got that extended to 10 weeks now. Because the fish can become quite patchy around this time of the year and you have to stock up a bit".Troy says he's modified the feeding methods due to an increase in the number of people wanting to feed the dolphins since the ban."We can have anything up to three hundred people some days.

But we're only allowing 10 people in the water at a time to feed - once those ten come out, another 10 can go in".As part of the agreement Troy will also monitor the dolphins and record when they visit, how long they stay and how much they eat."That's always been in place but now it's official. We can get back to sending that information back to National Parks and Wildlife on a regular basis and hopefully we can do something with that data".

A group of 22 volunteers, Troy says, arrive every morning to store and hand out the fish and to control the crowd in the water and on the boat ramps. "We need to have a fair few people on hand just to keep everything good and happy and to make sure the welfare of the dolphins is put at the front of the line".Troy says the dolphins don't seem to be upset by the recent increase in numbers. "Nothing really bothers them it seems. Not even all the attention.

Lately they just get their fish and go. If there are more people there, all well and good there's more people to look at. "I don't think Patch has missed a day for about 6 weeks now and Mystique is still coming and going as she pleases. So, they're obviously still happy".

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"