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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 295:265-272 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps295265

Residency pattern of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops spp. in Milford Sound, New Zealand, is related to boat traffic

David Lusseau*

Department of Zoology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New ZealandPresent address: School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Lighthouse Field Station, George Street, Cromarty, Ross-shire IV11 8YJ, UK

ABSTRACT: A population of bottlenose dolphins inhabits 7 of the 14 fjords that compose Fiordland, New Zealand. One of these fjords, Milford Sound, supports a large tourism industry that results in intense boat traffic. Bottlenose dolphins regularly visited Milford Sound and tour boats interacted with them during these visits. I studied the factors affecting the frequency of visits to Milford Sound by relating the residency pattern of dolphins in this fjord to oceanographic parameters and variations in boat traffic between December 1999 and February 2002. Boat traffic was the only variable that could explain the frequency of dolphin visits to Milford Sound. Dolphins spent less time in Milford Sound during seasons of intense boat traffic. Moreover, when dolphins visited this fjord, they spent more time at the entrance of the fjord when boat traffic was intense, out of the reach of tour boats. It seems that dolphins avoid Milford Sound when traffic is heavy. This avoidance could have long-term implications for the demography of the population.

KEY WORDS: Bottlenose dolphin · Tursiops · Tourism impact · Area avoidance · Habitat use

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