What it looks like: The Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin is a small a grey to very light grey dolphin that can grow up to 3 m long. It has a long beak and a small triangular fin on its back, which can have distinctive pink pigmentation. Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins are slow swimmers, usually found in small schools, often in the same areas as the Australian Snubfin or Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins.

Humpback Dolphin - Sousa chinensis

Photo: © Carol Palmer


Where it lives: Together with Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins and Australian Snubfins, Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins are one of only three strictly coastal dolphin species found in north Australian waters. They occupy near coastal waters between the Queensland/New South Wales border and Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. Like the Australian Snubfin, they prefer protected, shallow coastal waters less than 15m deep. They are almost always found within 10 km of the coast and generally no more than 20 km from the nearest river mouth. They frequent river estuaries and were recently seen 30 km upstream in the East Alligator River in Kakadu National Park.

Importance as an indicator: Healthy populations of Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins are likely to reflect productive and well managed coastal and estuarine environments. As upper level predators, these dolphins are likely to have a controlling influence on the size of the fish populations on which they feed. Their extinction could have far-reaching consequences for coastal and estuarine environments, giving them high biodiversity and conservation value. Moreover, as iconic species in these highly diverse ecosystems, conservation plans based on Australian Snubfin and Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins could be implemented to deliver broader biodiversity benefits.

Look after Indo-Pacific Humpbacked Dolphin by minimising any human-induced disturbances to these dolphins or their environments. Commercial fish-take should be managed at sustainable levels to ensure food remains for the dolphins, and accidental catching of dolphins should be prevented. Every effort should be made to reduce pollution entering marine waters, particularly of fishing nets, in which the dolphins can become entangled. Seagrass beds should be protected from dredging or pollution from land-based activities. Both commercial and recreational shipping traffic should avoid dolphin feeding habitat wherever possible.

Best Practice Management for Indo-Pacific Humpbacked Dolphin

* Limit pesticide use * Take care with fertiliser use * Manage water extraction sustainably * Look after riparian health * Manage fisheries sustainably * Adapt longline equipment to reduce seabird bycatch * Reduce bycatch * Clean up ghost nets * Prevent marine pollution * Protect seagrass beds * Minimise tourist impact * Report new populations * More information is needed about this species