OUR Protect our Dolphins petition — calling for a 10-knot speed limit in the Port River — has been handed to State Parliament with a whopping 11,500 signatures.
The petition was presented by Port Adelaide MP and deputy opposition leader Susan Close, who spoke in parliament in support of the Messenger campaign last Tuesday.
And experts are now hopeful that the “deafening call” for action to protect dolphins in the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary will prompt the State Government to take action.
“It is amazing how effective the Portside Messenger has been in garnering public support for the dolphins,” Dr Mike Bossley, who has worked with the Port River dolphins for more than 30 years, said.
“This is a deafening call to Stephan Knoll that he can’t ignore this issue — it’s an important issue for the dolphins and also for people who use that area (Garden Island).”
The Protect Our Dolphins petition was given to Dr Close by Messenger journalist Ashleigh Pisani, Adelaide dolphin expert Dr Mike Bossley and dolphin watchers Marianna Boorman and Jenni Wyrsta.
Dr Close has been a fierce supporter of the Messenger’s campaign, which was launched in April with the backing of Whale and Dolphin Conservation following the deaths of more than half of all the calves born in the sanctuary this season.
There was a baby boom in the Port River this year with seven calves born — the highest number in nearly a decade.
However, what should have been a joyous occasion for the dolphin community turned to dismay when only three survived.
The others are suspected of being hit and killed by speeding boats.
An autopsy performed on the body of two-week-old calf Holly — the only one to be recovered by authorities — confirmed that she was killed by a boat in January.
A recent report by the South Australian Museum found that 17 out of 35 known dolphin fatalities in the past 13 years were a result of blunt trauma impact, which Dr Bossley believes was “almost certainly due to being hit by boats”.
He was optimistic that the petition would deliver a positive outcome “at last”.
“It shows how much the people of Port Adelaide care for their dolphins,” he said.
That opinion was shared by Dr Close, who said it delivered an “overwhelming message” to the Transport Minister that public opinion favours a reduced speed limit, which currently ranges from 4 knots to unlimited.
“We know that too many dolphins are dying from boat strikes and that it is not necessary,” Dr Close said.
“We can manage the river in a way that makes sure that doesn’t happen and I really hope he (the minister) listens.
“The only way to get change is for the people to demand it — and they have spoken loud and clear.”
Marianna Boorman, from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation group, said she was hopeful the petition would result in “a safer place for the dolphins to live”.
“Being a sanctuary, having open speed limits just isn’t appropriate,” Ms Boorman said.
Ms Boorman, who is out on the water at Garden Island up to four days a week, said hooning on the river was on the rise.
“There are a lot more people going down there — there are a lot of people who do the right thing — but with more people you get more hooning and people doing the wrong things,” she said.
Dr Close will lodge the petition with the Transport Minister’s office.