Summer Survey Of Dugong Distribution and Abundance in Shark Bay Reveals Additional Key Habitat Area
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Natural Science
The first standardised summer aerial survey of dugongs within Shark Bay in Western Australia, and the fourth in a series of surveys of this area, was undertaken during February 2002. This survey returned a population estimate of 11021 ± 1357 (s.e.), a result similar to the first two winter surveys in 1989 and 1994 but considerably lower than the 1999 survey. Distribution was markedly different in this survey compared with all previous surveys, which were conducted during winter, confirming that dugongs within Shark Bay undertake a seasonal migration driven by changes in sea surface temperature. In addition to this distribution pattern it was identified that 24% of the population during summer occurred within an area known as Henri Freycinet Harbour. That is, while dugongs have been reported in this south-western region of the bay previously in summer, this is the first time that the substantial size (2629 ± 780, s.e.) of the summer dugong population has been quantified. Differences in the population estimate between the 1999 survey and this survey may be explained through large-scale movement patterns of dugongs between Shark Bay and Ningaloo Reef and Exmouth Gulf to the north, patterns that should be considered in the management of dugongs for the entire region.