Res­i­dents on dol­phin watch . . .

The Southland Times - - Front Page - Jamie Searle

Western South­land res­i­dents are fall­ing in love with dol­phins that are reg­u­larly grac­ing lo­cals with their pres­ence near River­ton.

Now, marine mam­mal re­searcher Gemma McGrath is in­ter­ested in form­ing a shore-based group to keep a watch on the dol­phins. Dol­phins have been turn­ing up in re­cent months and McGrath ex­pects more sight­ings dur­ing the sum­mer.

She and River­ton res­i­dents have no­ticed Bot­tlenose and Hec­tors in the River­ton har­bour, es­tu­ary, mouth of the Aparima River and un­der the main bridge. They have also been spot­ted in Co­lac Bay.

McGrath, of Co­lac Bay, is a con­sul­tant for Whale and Dol­phin Con­ser­va­tion and op­er­ates an app for re­port­ing New Zealand-wide sight­ings of dol­phins and whales. In­for­ma­tion gath­ered is passed on to the De­part­ment of Con­ver­sa­tion.

Western South­land res­i­dents would make up the shore-based group and un­der­take record­keep­ing of sight­ings for a lo­cal data base, McGrath said.

A photo li­brary of dol­phins in western South­land would pro­vide valu­able in­for­ma­tion, she added.

‘‘Side on shots [of dol­phins] clearly show their nicks and mark­ings and some of the mark­ings can be used for iden­ti­fy­ing pur­poses in the fu­ture.

‘‘[Form­ing] the group is a way for lo­cal peo­ple to get con­nected with their dol­phins.’’

McGrath has been ob­serv­ing whales and dol­phins and re­search­ing them, New Zealand­wide, for nearly 20 years.

River­ton artist Wayne Hill of­ten pad­dle boards among the dol­phins. ‘‘They swim un­der the board . . . it’s amaz­ing. I feel so elated be­ing in the wa­ter with them,’’ he said.

Bar­bara Lee, a pho­tog­ra­pher in River­ton, is also among the many dol­phin fol­low­ers in western South­land. ‘‘You can’t pre­dict when you’ll see them but dur­ing the sum­mer months you see them a lot,’’ Lee said.

Te Wae­wae Bay is also a good area for view­ing dol­phins.

BAR­BARA LEE/LEE WAY IMAGES

A dol­phin stands on its hindquar­ters in the River­ton har­bour re­cently.

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