Lots of boats, but hardly any dolphins

I was lucky enough to get another boat trip this morning – but the dolphins were grumpy  The tourist season here on Mikura really starts to kick off in June, with serious crowds coming to the island in July and August. People come here for dolphin watching, and to wander through the beautiful forests on the island. Usually this means that space on the dolphin watching boats is at a mikura dolphin watching premium, so I won’t get the chance to go out to conduct research. I was lucky today that there was space available. The drawback to this whole booming tourist industry is that there are a fair number of boats out on the water at one time. It is certainly not nearly as terrible as I have seen in other places involved in dolphin watching, but more boats equals less inquisitive dolphins. I had the feeling that the dolphins were simply not in the mood to swim with people today – whenever we jumped in the water, the dolphins simply disappeared. I did see little Hamlet again though – a brief swim-by.

Some of the researchers here on the island are conducting long term studies of the impact of dolphin tourism on the local dolphin population. It is very difficult to study this subject – much of what people have to say about it comes from an anecdotal or gut feeling perspective. My gut feeling today was that the dolphins were grumpy – fed up with all the curious tourists.

Trying to study dolphins in their natural habitat is a difficult thing to do. Researchers generally want to be as non-invasive as possible – trying not to disturb the dolphins while at the same time recording natural behavior. But the simple fact of us being in the water with our cameras will alter natural behavior. It is a catch 22. It is hoped that research on dolphins in the wild like we do here on Mikura will ultimately contribute to the conservation of dolphin species around the globe, so it is an acceptable flaw in the design of these kinds of studies. I will be out on the water tomorrow, so perhaps the weekend rush will have subsided somewhat and the dolphins will be on good terms with us yet again!