Healthy Waterways-Healthy Dolphins Project

The Problem

Dolphin communities that utilise estuarine environments are economically, socially, culturally and environmentally valuable, but are among the most vulnerable animals from disturbance and habitat degradation.

Our estuaries in the Northern Rivers, New South Wales region provide crucial habitats for several resident bottlenose dolphin communities. However, with this ever-increasing pressure from human activities, brings an uncertain and ever threatening future for the survival and well-being of our much-loved dolphins.

A bottlenose dolphin hunts in the Nambucca River, New South Wales

Our concerns for the health of dolphin populations in this region have recently escalated following the detection of viruses in stranded animals and the increase in threats including shark nets and degrading habitats from coastal development and agricultural practices, pollution, vessel activities, fishing, and decreased quality of prey.

Despite these concerns and the economic, social, cultural and environmental value of these dolphin communities, we know little about the health and survival of these populations. Are their numbers stable? Do their calves survive to maturity? Do they have the capacity to withstand the existing threats – particularly if they use degraded estuarine habitats every day?

Our vulnerable dolphin communities could be in trouble and could disappear if no one is watching. We want to ensure this doesn’t happen and aid in their protection and conservation, allowing them to survive and thrive for many generations to come. But we cannot do this without your help!

Here’s what we’re doing about it…

Our Healthy Waterways-Healthy Dolphins Project will help fill these vital knowledge gaps and determine the status and health of bottlenose dolphin communities in estuaries of Northern New South Wales. The project will combine non-invasive scientific research with community engagement to improve knowledge and facilitate positive action to improve the local estuarine environment. The project relies on volunteer teams and community participation to make it happen.

This project will provide vital information on the status and health of dolphin communities in Northern NSW with the assistance of citizen scientists.

Our long-term project aims to understand the abundance, trends and health status of the local dolphin communities that rely on estuaries and identify areas of critical habitat. More specifically, we will:

Dr Liz assessing a stranded dolphin

  • Assess the abundance, trends and residency patterns of dolphin populations in these major estuarine systems of Northern New South Wales;
  • Identify habitats and prey species of critical importance to resident dolphin populations;
  • Examine the health of resident populations of dolphins utilizing major estuaries using assessments of external features from photographs and samples from stranded animals;
  • Investigate the relationships between estuarine condition and the status of dolphin communities, using water quality monitoring data;
  • Create community engagement and educational information for the public to aid in improving and protecting the estuaries;
  • Provide crucial information for more informed management plans and ensure more effective conservation initiatives.

Join us & Ensure Our Dolphins Thrive & Survive for Many Generations


You can make a tax deductible donation today! We need to raise $10,000 to get this project off the ground and reach the first 2 year milestone. We have until the 22nd June to make this happen. Your donation will help us reach this goal and help our vulnerable dolphin communities. Our volunteer team is ready to go we just need a little help from you!

You can Donate today to our crowdfunding campaign simply follow the link here to donate 

You can also Donate directly to us through our donation page

Or simply email us if you’d prefer to make a direct bank transfer. All donations are Tax Deductible! How awesome is that?!!

Would you like to become a Dolphin Watch Volunteer for this Project?

Come along to one of our Dolphin Ecology Workshops

Our Healthy Waterways-Healthy Dolphins Project surveys are made with the assistance of our Dolphin Watch Citizen Science teams. If you would like to become a trained Dolphin Watch Volunteer and help with our monthly surveys in the Tweed, Richmond or Nambucca Rivers, come along to one of our Dolphin Ecology Workshops.

To learn about our upcoming workshops and sign up to become a Dolphin Watch volunteer with this project or simply learn about dolphins and how you can help monitor dolphins in your area during your everyday leisure time follow the link below.

Our next Dolphin Ecology Workshop is taking place in Tweed Heads 14-15th July 2018.

Many helping hands make this project happen!

Thanks to our Project Partners & Supporters:

Project would not be possible without the amazing support of:

  • Gumma Indigenous Protected Area
  • Tweed Shire Council
  • Nambucca Shire Council
  • Ballina Shire Council
  • Wettenhall Foundation
  • All of our donors!!