Hope Spot Nomination for Kangaroo Island’s North Coast

Shortbeaked Common Dolphins – North Coast November 2017: Phyll Bartram
Humpback Whale – North Cape December 2018: Sofie Nyberg
Humpback Whale – North Cape November 2011: Andrew Neighbour
Bottlenose Dolphins – Dashwood Bay North Cape 2012: Richard Wylie

Kangaroo Island’s fabulous North Coast will be the focus of international interest and scrutiny in the coming months as part of a collaborative effort by Kangaroo Island / Victor Harbor Dolphin Watch and AusOcean nominating it as a Hope Spot under the Mission Blue Project.

This initiative could see the area, one of only a handful of such designated sites around Australia’s coastline, promoted widely as one of the world’s most important marine environments.

The Mission Blue Project www.mission-blue.org  is the brainchild of Dr Sylvia Earle considered amongst the world’s most highly respected marine authorities, a leading marine scientist and explorer. It has resulted in some of the world’s most important marine habitats being afforded greater protection and profiling as places to visit for people from around the globe.

As part of the Great Southern Reef, KI’s temperate waters are home to an incredible number of species with at least 85% found nowhere else in the world.

Dolphin Watch Coordinator Tony Bartram met on several occasions recently with Shannon Rake via Zoom while she was isolating in California. Shannon is the Mission Blue Hope Spot Program Manager who offered great encouragement and advice to the co-nominators in an extensive, far reaching discussion.

It is possible in the near future, as a result of this initiative, that the marine environment of KI’s North Coast may be considered in the same light as the terrestrial environment, capable of providing extraordinary world leading wildlife experiences. This is something for which the island’s land based environment is renowned.

It deserves nothing less than this special recognition as the following quote from Catherine Larkin of AusOcean outlines:

“KI is unique in that it sits at the confluence of two oceanographic systems providing unique habitat that supports an abundance of marine species, many of which have high conservation value. From Leafy sea dragons, to pods of 100 dolphins and large coral colonies that have existed for hundreds of years, KI has provided an important refuge for many vulnerable species whose numbers have declined significantly elsewhere.”

This promising proposal will be assessed by the Mission Blue Council early in August.

Today, more than ever….we all need hope!

#missionblue #hopespot #northcoast #kangarooisland #southaustralia #hope #love #gratitude

Australian Sealion – North Cape 2016: Phyll Bartram
Southern Right Whales – Smith Bay 2018: Yumbah Aquaculture
Osprey – Dashwood Bay 2018: Phyll Bartram
Whitebellied Seaeagle – North Coast 2018: Peter Fuller
Hooded Plover – Smith Bay 2018: Phyll Bartram
North Coast of Kangaroo Island – Gary Bell / KI Digicam
Dolphin monitoring at Smith Bay, Kangaroo Island: Phyll Bartram
Bottlenose Dolphin – Dashwood Bay: Tony Bartram
“Hope” Bottlenose Dolphin – Dashwood Bay: Tony Bartram

Moving forward…thanks to AusOcean!

North Coast of Kangaroo Island – Gary Bell / KI Digicam

Shortbeaked Common Dolphins – North Coast, Kangaroo Island
Bottlenose Dolphin – Dashwood Bay, Kangaroo Island

2020 has been a very different year ….to start with, first the devastating bushfire crisis which impacted upon the lives of so many friends and associates, followed by the virus pandemic and the global impact upon everyone.

As they say in the classics – nil desperandum, and the research goes on, albeit in a different form.

Regular monitoring and fantastic data input has continued, thanks in particular to stalwart Dolphin Champions Sue and John Holman in their boat “Maggie” on Kangaroo Island, underpinned by ongoing land based monitoring and community data input in the region. The time which isolation has provided has given us the opportunity to progress the data review of nearly 14 ½ years of Citizen Science data in the region more energetically, with brilliant outcomes. A focus on the identification of female and calf Bottlenose dolphin pairs, life histories etc has confirmed the calving occurring in all 12 months of the year locally – a great result.

A brilliant collaboration with AusOcean www.ausocean.org has seen the digital acoustic recorders recently deployed, setting up acoustic monitoring stations to record whale and dolphin activity along the North Coast of Kangaroo Island. This will provide a fascinating insight into cetacean migrations and the Southern Right whales in particular. A brilliant concept realised thanks to AusOcean, and a long time in the making.

The Australian Ocean Lab – AusOcean are a fantastic environmental not-for-profit organisation with a difference. Their mission is to help our oceans through technology, partnering with other NPOs in the area of marine conservation. Developing and applying technology for solving ocean science and conservation challenges…how amazing is that!!

We are incredibly grateful for their wonderful expertise, enthusiasm, generosity and support.

Read all about their inspirational work through a range of exciting projects and their vital research at Smith Bay on Kangaroo Island on https://blog.ausocean.org  

Looking ahead with optimism and hope as much as possible…… and sending good wishes with love to this wonderful world!

#citizenscience #Covid19 #dolphins #photographicidentification #acousticmonitoring #research #whales

#northcoast #kangarooisland #hopespot #thinkblue 

Southern Right Whales, Smith Bay, Kangaroo Island – Dave Connell
Dolphin monitoring at Smith Bay, Kangaroo Island
Bottlenose Dolphin calf – North Coast, Kangaroo Island

City and Country Year 8 Citizen Scientists on Dolphin Watch!

Year 8 Citizen Scientists from both the city and the country, following classroom presentations, enjoyed working in dolphin research with Dolphin Watch in September and November last year. Two classes of SHIP students from Seaton High School in Adelaide and two classes from Kingscote Campus of Kangaroo Island Community Education assisted with data collection efforts using photographic identification techniques, aboard Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures “Island Explorer”.

A fascinating experience for both groups to be involved in scientific research in the field and to contribute to global understandings regarding these fascinating iconic marine mammals.

Funding provided by the State Government in the case of Seaton HS allowed the students to participate as one of five SA Entrepreneurial Schools.


Thanks are due to Tom Griffith, Assistant Principal – Emerging Technologies and Specialist Programs at Seaton High School, and staff, and Emma Bell, Science and HASS teacher at Kingscote for their part in facilitating these hands on experiences and follow up data analysis and learning activities for their students.

Special thanks to Ross Evans of Natural Resources KI / Department for Environment and Water, sourcing funding from Inspiring South Australia through the Kangaroo Island Regional Science Hub, https://inspiringsa.org.au/science-hubs/ facilitating two groups of island students once again being involved in a postponed National Science Week activity.


To the wonderful city and country students, a huge thankyou for their fantastic data acquisition, enthusiasm and support.

We look forward to future productive collaborations and successful outcomes ….for the brilliant students AND the dolphins! 

#citizenscience #education #students #volunteers #bottlensosedolphins #conservation #thankyou

Citizen Science…and community data in action!

Bottlenose dolphin Portelli, Whyalla….now known as “Mrs Portelli” !

‘Rosie’ – a wonderful story of Citizen Science and the magic of community data by our fantastic volunteer Roanna Horbelt.

” This year my partner Phil and I decided to take a road-trip from Kangaroo Island, our home, right along the coastline of our precious state of South Australia….all the way to WA. We wanted to see for ourselves what might be effected were oil to actually spill into this pristine oceanic wilderness. We wanted to meet the people; the locals that rely on the sea. The residents that live in and on the water’s edge…..the people whose lives would be changed forever were the oceans tainted by oil. We also wanted to see the creatures…..the cetaceans, the sea lions, the incredible birdlife…all those that do not have a voice….and to see what this potential threat might mean to them.

And we were not let down! What a simply stunning, incredible, unique, diverse stretch of coastline!! And the characters!!! I could write a book on most of them.

But what surprised us perhaps the most was the amount of dolphins present at almost every point, every coastal township, every beach. We found them leaping the waves in the large swells around Venus Bay, fishing close off the rocky shoreline of Lincoln National Park, surfing in large numbers head to head at Hally’s Beach and catching squid in the Whyalla harbour.

We lingered a little longer in Whyalla as I had heard about the very tame dolphins there from my mother who used to frequent this area a lot in her younger years. And we were not disappointed!

There were at least 10 dolphins just hanging around in the harbour amongst the shipping vessels And quite a few more in the mouth, and just out to sea. Then I saw what looked like a seal surfacing the water. Definitely no dorsal fin that I could see…. I took hold of my Dolphin Watch camera and zoomed in to get a better look. And suddenly realised that this ‘seal’ was far from being a pinniped…as it had a tiny little newborn bottle-nosed dolphin by its side! On closer inspection I realised that this poor mum had actually lost most of her dorsal fin. But this had clearly not stopped her from having a precious little bub.

After the initial excitement of finding a new-born, the situation at hand did make us ponder on the how’s and why’s of this clearly once severe injury however.

I have since found out that this beautiful dolphin pod actually follows the boats into the harbour each day…..as both the fishers and the locals feed them with freshly caught (or bought) fish! This explained to us both their very docile behaviour… and quite possibly (and even probably) the injuries to the mum of this little one. Also concerning to us was the fact that dolphins obviously learn from their mothers (and the rest of the pod)…..so is this little one now going to learn from its mother how to follow the boats in…get fed from the locals….and possibly sustain a similar or more severe injury to its mother? Just unthinkable!

But for now I just took as many photos as I could as they swam out to sea.

Interestingly enough, back home again and attending a lunch with our Kangaroo Island Dolphin Watch family, I saw what seemed to be our finless dolphin on the screen of one of the computers being used to ID some of our local bottlenose dolphins! How strange! Surely not. But the mystery was soon to be revealed. A dear friend of ours and wildlife photographer, Scott Portelli, had recently been to Whyalla to capture the annual mating of the giant cuttlefish. And he had actually met our dolphin underwater! And had sent the footage and photo’s attained at that date to the Kangaroo Island / Victor Harbor Dolphin Watch team. Wow! The dolphin in question even already had a name! ‘Portelli’!

Just love this. The magic of Dolphin Watch in coastal communities coming together! Citizen Science in action!

So we now know that ‘Portelli’ is, in fact, a lovely lady! And that she, this year, gave birth to precious little ‘Rosie’ (named after my close friend Rosie Portelli, Scott’s wife).

And that is the story of little Rosie, the just born Whyalla bottlenose dolphin, that will hopefully now be catalogued together with her mum….so that many more people such as ourselves will be able to identity her and enjoy her company in the coming years, and greet her and her mum from us just across the ocean! ”

Thankyou so much dear Ro and Phil Smith of http://whalesinthewild.com……and wonderful photographer Scott Portelli http://scottportelli.com

Magic indeed!

#citizenscience #communitydata #volunteers #bottlenosedolphins #whyalla #conservation #magic

Mrs Portelli and new calf Rosie

100th Survey out to the Pages Islands!

Volunteers and crew celebrating 100 surveys in the Victor Harbor region

Milestones and memories!

Thanks to the generous support and wonderful “gift” from Michael and Bianca Veenstra and the Big Duck Boat Tours, our 100th Kangaroo Island / Victor Harbor Dolphin Watch research survey in Encounter Bay was a survey with a difference!

We have since had 2 more wonderful local surveys but this amazing milestone was a magical one we will always remember!

On August 25th the crew headed offshore into the Southern Ocean to visit the magnificent Pages Islands and the endangered Australian Sealion colony, while looking for cetaceans, large and small. The Pages are a small group of 2 islands and a reef in Backstairs Passage – a protected area known as the Pages Conservation Park.

A further celebratory note was provided by the Advertiser http://adelaidenow.com.au journalist Michelle Etheridge coming aboard together with photographer Simon Cross and Gabrielle Duykers from the Times, Victor Harbor http://victorharbortimes.com.au . Under a special permit Simon videoed the colony from a drone, trialling further research possibilities for Scientists and Government agencies involved in monitoring the population of the highly endangered Sealions.

No whales were seen but sightings of Shortbeaked Common dolphins delighted all aboard.

A delicious celebration lunch at the Hotel Victor http://hotelvictor.com.au followed and allowed for a further celebration element. A perfect way to celebrate the efforts of Citizen Science volunteers, over 8 ½ years.

Our heartfelt thanks to wonderful Skipper Ian Andrews and crew and all at the Big Duck http://thebigduck.com.au for their fantastic long term support of Citizen Science in the region.

To our wonderful manager Nedra Haines, stalwart volunteers, sponsors and supporters…we salute you!

Special thanks to Sealink Kangaroo Island http://www.sealink.com.au – Dolphin Watch’s major sponsors for over a decade for helping to make it all happen.

#thepages #conservationpark #sanctuaryzone #protectedarea #backstairspassage  #research #australiansealions #endangeredspecies #sponsors #supporters #victorharbor #encounterbay #citizenscience #volunteers #love #gratitude

The Pages Islands
Volunteers at work
Shortbeaked Common dolphin escort
The Pages, Backstairs Passage

“Getting to know the locals” National Science Week 2019

Mel Stonnill presents – “Seal Bay Current Research and Conservation Programmes”

Kangaroo Island / Victor Harbor Dolphin Watch’s 10th Science Week event “Getting to Know the Locals” took on a different flavor with a successful collaboration with Natural Resources KI / DEW at the Ozone Hotel on August 15th.  A range of speakers delivered an overview of programmes running on Kangaroo Island and the way Science is used to inform conservation efforts around the island and in its waters.

National Science Week each year aims to encourage informed discussion around science-related issues, encourage young people to study science, promote science-based careers, inform businesses of the importance of innovation to their long-term success and celebrate the achievements of Australians working in these fields. It provides a perfect vehicle to highlight, encourage and celebrate community engagement in science and its relevance in our region.  

The event was Dolphin Watch’s 10th Science Week event funded once again by a National Science Week SA Community Grant and supported by Dolphin Watch’s major sponsors, the Ozone Hotel and Sealink KI.

Ross Evans, Communications Manager with Natural Resources KI, as well as speaking on the night, coordinated the input from government agencies providing fascinating displays and an insight for the local community to the breadth and effectiveness of their programmes. Mayor Michael Pengilly provided an opening address followed by Commissioner Wendy Campana setting the context for the evening.

Speakers included Mel Stonnill, Seal Bay Research, Education and Operations Coordinator – “Seal Bay Current Research and Conservation programmes”, Damon Cusack, RALF / Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator – “Resilient Agriculture: Multi Benefit Regenerative Agriculture”, Trish Mooney, APC / Animal and Plant Control Officer – “Animal and Plant Control”, Ross Evans, NRM – “Additional Projects” and the “Landscape SA Bill 2019” and MC Tony Bartram from Dolphin Watch. Jarrah Bailey from DEW attended with a display concerning Marine Parks and their effectiveness and highlighting the park of the month, the “Encounter Marine Park” – the first time the featured park has been marine and not terrestrial.

Thank you to all participants, contributors, speakers and audience members, for a very informative expose of conservation science. As always wonderful hospitality and fantastic sponsorship and support, thankyou Team Ozone Hotel!

A brilliant educational evening providing hope for future conservation efforts on Kangaroo Island.

Special thanks to Pete Nash / Pete Nash Photography.

Roll on National Science Week 2020 “Ancient Seas”!

#nationalscienceweek #Science #presentation #celebration #collaboration #conservation #thankyou

NRM / DEW Presenters and KI Commissioner Wendy Campana

National Whale Day 2019

Launched in 2008 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare https://www.ifaw.org/au National Whale Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness of, and discuss solutions to, the threats facing whales and their environment, including commercial whaling, noise pollution, climate change, vessel strikes, marine debris, by-catch and entanglement.

It’s always a treat to look back and remember wonderful National Whale Day KI / VH Dolphin Watch Whale Encounters and special celebrations in our region over the years!

This year in the lead up to World Oceans Day on June 8th Dolphin Watch undertook a series of events to highlight both the marine environment and World Environment Day. Unfortunately National Whale Day celebrations at Victor Harbor were restricted to a celebration lunch after postponing the research survey due to inclement weather.

A small group of dedicated Citizen Science volunteers, including Victor Harbor Mayor Moira Jenkins, enjoyed a delicious Hotel Victor lunch together with Michael and Bianca Veenstra from the Big Duck Boat Tours https://www.thebigduckboattours.com.au   who have been a vital, integral part of not just the Dolphin Watch project but the overall protection of cetaceans in our regional waters over 8 years of operation in Encounter Bay.

Stunning, clear conditions with no wind to speak of made the Kangaroo Island survey on World Environment Day, June 5th, a delightful experience for all aboard Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures http://www.kimarineadventures.com.au

No large whales were encountered but a pod of 20 Bottlenose dolphins including 2 young calves resting and frolicking off North Cape made for brilliant observations. Moving further offshore resulted in an exhilarating encounter with a number of frisky Shortbeaked Common dolphins. These beautiful, small, swift dolphins provided the highlight of the day with high energy aerial displays. What a way to finish the on water celebration. After the survey the group met at Amadio’s in Kingscote to debrief and complete the celebrations.

On both occasions Coordinator Tony thanked all volunteers over the years for their dedicated efforts in data collection assisting with conservation efforts, and reiterated the critical state of the highly endangered Southern Right whales in our region whose population is estimated to have fallen to less than 300, making them the most highly endangered group of Baleen whales in the world.

True cause for reflection on IFAW’s National Whale Day.       

“Wild and Free” Exhibition – Fine Art Kangaroo Island  


Artist / photographer Peter Fuller with “Submariner”

The magnificent beauty of Kangaroo Island’s marine environment and the dolphins that live within has been highlighted between January 27th – February 24th by long term stalwart Dolphin Watch volunteer Peter Fuller’s fascinating debut exhibition Wild and Free at wonderful Fine Art Kangaroo Island.

His stunning images on metal of these iconic sentient beings, showcase not only Pete’s extraordinary skills as an artist and photographer but also the pristine nature of the marine habitat and the biodiversity that abounds.

This solo exhibition in the main gallery of Fine Art Kangaroo Island, has been well received with huge crowds at the opening and great attendance since. Exceptional feedback from Australian and overseas visitors attests to Pete’s technical expertise and artistry, as well as feedback from fellow photographers complimenting the works as outstanding.

The strength of the underlying message “Wild and Free” could not have been better exemplified and the conservation message resoundingly amplified by these wonderfully presented inspiring, uplifting and soul restoring glimpses into these delightful non human persons’ wonderful world…..
May you forever remain wild and free …and safe in your stunning, pristine habitat, so in need of protection.

WILD & FREE Collection, the title and the images, originated for me from my first outing as a volunteer with KI/VH Dolphin Watch. Seeing nature in its natural environment had me focus outside of my own troubles at the time.

I found it very therapeutic and freeing and found myself in an almost meditative state witnessing these magnificent creatures wild and free.

We have something very special here on Kangaroo Island and we need to look after it for future generations. Such biodiversity and eco systems, a true heaven on earth.”

Catalogue extract in Pete’s words.

If unable to personally enjoy and be inspired by this remarkable and unique exhibition of large format high resolution metal prints, framed photographs on paper and smaller matted images in its closing days, please contact Curator Fleur Peters to view a delightful e-catalogue.

www.fineartkangarooisland.com.au    fineartki@bigpond.com     T +61 (8) 85530448

Love and gratitude to dear Pete, Fleur, Fred, Leon…….and the dolphins!

#dolphins #wildandfree #artexhibition  #photography  #citizenscience #northcoast #kangarooisland

#savesmithbay #tooprecioustolose

Hon. Leon Bignell MP, Fine Art Kangaroo Island’s Fleur and Fred Peters and artist / photographer Peter Fuller on opening night Jan. 27th 2019

Hon. Leon Bignell MP congratulates artist / photographer Peter Fuller after opening the exhibition Jan. 27th 2019






A Highlight of 2018 – Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior on KI!

The Rainbow Warrior anchored in Nepean Bay – Stan Gorton

The Greenpeace flagship “Rainbow Warrior” visited Kangaroo Island last month as part of a research expedition to explore the marine life around the island and along the Great Southern Reef.

With large tracts of this marine wonderland as yet unexplored, known to host many species never before identified, this research was of the highest priority given emerging threats from inappropriate development and oil and gas exploration activities in the Great Australian Bight.

This extraordinarily rich series of ecosystems showing high levels of endemism – 85% of the known species occurs nowhere else in the world, is in danger of being lost forever should an oil spill catastrophe happen.

Too high a risk one might suggest….

A group of Dolphin Watch stalwarts and other local identities who have campaigned against oil and gas drilling in the waters off KI and the Great Australian Bight, were invited aboard for lunch while she was anchored off Kingscote. It was a moving experience of a lifetime to meet the inspirational scientists and crew and enjoy a stunning tour of this magnificent vessel.

NZ Photo Journalist Richard Robinson delighted us all over lunch, with a stunning presentation of images of the divers’ wonderful discoveries during their explorations of the Great Southern Reef, with many new discoveries, all illustrating just how amazing this stunning marine environment is, about which so little is known ……..and so in need of urgent protection!

From Greenpeace Facebook post on December 12th:

“Have you heard of the Great Southern Reef? If not, you’re not alone. Australia’s little-known ‘other’ reef is absolutely huge, spanning 8,100 km.

We’ve been exploring this magical place with a team of marine biologists. We found an underwater world of astonishing beauty, home to some of the most amazingly diverse marine life on Earth.

But this amazing place could be devastated by dangerous deepwater oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight, before we’ve had a chance to fully understand it….”




All invited were extremely grateful to Captain Hettie Geenen for hosting this very special event and to Nat, Simon, Holly and Diana for their part in the logistics. What a privilege.

Thankyou so much to the wonderful scientists, the incredible Rainbow Warrior and all at Greenpeace for helping us to spread the word about our pristine southern waters, Kangaroo Island …and……the Great Southern Reef!

Love and gratitude…..to all of you, from us and the whales, large and small….and friends!

#rainbowwarrior #conservation #marineenvironment  #PeopleVOil  #makeoilhistory  #greataustralianbight  #protectthebight #savesmithbay #whales #dolphins #biologicallyimportantarea #marinebiodiversity #sanctuary #endangeredspecies  #criticalhabitat  #inappropriatedevelopment #kangarooisland  #tooprecioustolose

In the best company on the bow! – Phil Smith

What IS it about dolphins?

“What IS it about dolphins? – “Good News Dolphin Stories” exploring the relationship between humans and dolphins and why they inspire awe, wonder and affection in those lucky enough to enjoy their company.

We are still working on collations and the finishing stages …..and finding a publisher who loves dolphins too!

We seek to inspire and spread the joy about these beautiful, magical sentient beings – what they mean to so many of us, why they should be left to enjoy their wonderful life in freedom, safety, peace and harmony, and afforded the basic rights these remarkable non human beings deserve.

One of the many magnificent, uplifting contributions by Fiona Fallo says it all!    Enjoy.

To Wholeness

We watch the dolphins glide by.  Before they came we were busy setting up for the day, battling wind to tie the tent down.

The unexpected sight of a fin though pauses everything.  We know it’s precious to see them.

We are still.  Our thinking is suspended as we stop and watch them.  For that brief time we are complete.  Whole.

The dolphins captivate our senses.  Their presence stills the mind which allows an intrinsic knowing to arise; that underneath the busyness of life and the busyness of thinking we are complete, enough, whole. And wholeness is wellness.

The experience, captivation and awe doesn’t need to last. A fleeting feeling, a quick glimpse of our wholeness is enough.

Experience of wholeness, facilitated by the presence of dolphins is transformative.

When the moment of captivation passes and thinking resumes, we feel better. We are changed. The seed of wellness has received the nourishment required to grow. We return to daily life making choices that are best for ourselves in a coherent, effortless, sustainable way.

We have felt whole….Well. We know we are fundamentally whole and well and that our task, if any, is to let go of things that fragment our sense of wholeness or disturb our wellness.

Experience of natural wonder such as the sentient beings of the oceans, can be all that is needed to initiate a return to physical, mental, spiritual wellness.

To wholeness.

Bio    Born on the Kaurna Plains, protected by the Peramangk Hills, inspired by the Southern Ocean. . . I am now mother to four shining humans and wife to a loving Sicilian.  My work includes Meditation teaching and being a Psychologist both in Private Practice and with Indigenous peoples of the greater metropolitan area of Adelaide.  I keep in mind that “there is no intelligence without love” (Krishnamurti) and equally that love is the beginning, the end and the journey itself.

Love and gratitude to you dear Fi.