Australia: Inquiry call over attack on dolphin.

14th Nov 2002 Story:

An attack on a resident Port River dolphin has prompted calls for a police investigation.

Dolphin researcher Dr Mike Bossley said yesterday he believed the dolphin, known as Two-Notch, had been attacked last weekend with a spear, harpoon or possibly a bullet.

"I don't know what caused the wound but it's clearly not natural," Dr Bossley said.

"When dolphins injure each other, it is scratches or bites.

"It is a round wound which looks to me like it's been a spear or possibly even a gunshot."

Dr Bossley, the Australian Dolphin Research Foundation head, said the dolphin had been wounded in muscle, above the spine and vital organs.

"It doesn't appear to be life-threatening but it's hard to know at this stage," he said.

Environment Minister John Hill yesterday called for a police investigation into the attack which he believes could be linked to threats made against Port River dolphins last month.

He has written to Police Minister Patrick Conlon requesting a thorough investigation.

Mr Hill said he was horrified and disturbed by the harming of such a gentle creature.

"We had threats and a couple of weeks later there is evidence of a dolphin being injured," he said.

"You can't automatically put one and one together to make two but there is some evidence of that being the case."

Mr Conlon said he would raise the issue with Police Commissioner Mal Hyde.

Mr Hill told Parliament last month his department had received oral and written death threats against the dolphins, including one that said "powerheads" – explosive devices attached to spears – would be used to harm them.

Dr Bossley discovered the dolphin's injury during a regular dolphin survey on Tuesday when he found Two-Notch swimming in the Barker Inlet near St Kilda.

He said Two-Notch, named after markings on his dorsal fin, was about 30 years old and the "biggest, most powerful male" which lived in the Port River-Barker Inlet estuary.

Under State Government plans, penalties for harming dolphins will increase from $50,000 to $100,000 while the proposed dolphin sanctuary would cover waters from Largs Bay to Port Gawler and the Outer Harbor-Torrens Island waterways.