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Sent to Jon Faine Program ABC radio 774 on Wednesday 18th April, 2007

Jon and the Morning Program Team,

I would like to express my thanks to you for the Channel Deepening Forum that you held this morning. Unfortunately, the unavoidable time limitations of radio programming meant that many issues and concerns did not get discussed or did not get enough attention. This is not a criticism – it’s just the ‘nature of the beast’, as it is of course impossible to canvas all the issues in two and a half hours. However, I would like to raise one issue. During the course of the forum, both Jon and Stephen Bradford encouraged the listeners to read the ‘summary brochure’/executive summary of the Supplementary Environment Effects Statement (SEES). However, such a recommendation assumes that the content contained in these summary documents accurately conveys the ‘essence’ of the more detailed and scientific information contained in the ‘mountainous’ SEES document. However, after reading certain sections of the SEES Main Report and the Technical Appendices, I discovered discrepancies in the information being conveyed and was therefore concerned with how the information is being presented to the public for comment (especially in the summary documents).

As a casual employee of Polperro Dolphin Swims (I am also studying and working at Monash University), my main area of concern is the impact the channel deepening project may have on the welfare of the dolphins in Port Phillip Bay. In reviewing the SEES, I therefore concentrated my attention on reading ‘Chapter 13 – The Bay’ of the main report, and ‘Appendix 56 – Marine Mammals and Penguins’ of the technical appendices.

When reading the section ‘13.8 Effects on dolphins’ in the main report, I was alarmed at how inaccurate certain statements were, which contradict the information in the technical appendix. For example, under section 13.8.1 on pp. 83-84, the main report states the following: ‘Although dolphins occur near shore from time to time and regularly enter Port Phillip Bay, the bay is not considered of significant ecological importance for this species’. However, this is a complete misrepresentation of the information contained in the technical appendix. For example, on p. 17 of Technical Appendix 56, it states the following:

‘Of cetaceans listed in Figure I.1-2 only bottlenose dolphin is considered likely to depend on the Bay to any significant degree and Port Phillip Bay has a population that may be considered genetically and biogeographically isolated from other populations in the region … Bottlenose dolphin is important for intrinsic reasons but is also an integral part of the Bay’s ecosystem as well as a source of tourism revenue.’

Also, on p. 72:

‘Genetic studies on the population in Port Phillip Bay are ongoing but preliminary results suggest that they are genetically distinct from other populations in the region … Whatever the outcome of the genetic research, the recommended approach in the context of this study is to accord with the view that Port Phillip Bay bottlenose dolphins are a distinctive feature of the Bay and having evolved in relative isolation for hundreds or thousands of years may be adapted to the local environment — bathymetry, currents, habitats and other features.’

These and other statements contained in the technical appendix emphasise the ecological importance of Port Phillip Bay for the resident population of bottlenose dolphins. The fact that the SEES main report claims that Port Phillip Bay is of no ecological significance to the bottlenose dolphins is therefore alarming, as such a statement fails to accurately represent the scientific information contained in the technical appendix. Needless to say, this raises concerns regarding how the information is presented in the main report and other summary documents for public comment. A person reading the main report or other summary documents would therefore be given a completely wrong impression of the threats from the channel deepening project to the Bay’s dolphin population compared to a person who had read the technical appendix.

I have raised this and other concerns (e.g. questions regarding the proposed mitigation measures to address the ‘major risks’ – as acknowledged by the SEES – to the Bay’s dolphin population) in a submission to the panel reviewing the SEES. But I just thought that you might like to know how some of the details in the technical appendices (at least in the one I read) are not being accurately represented in the main report, which is probably also the case in the summary documents that the listeners were referred to this morning. While I appreciate people’s time limitations, relying on the summary documents (as presented by the Port of Melbourne) may give them a false impression of the risks involved concerning the project.

Thanks again for the program this morning. You have a loyal following among many of the students at Monash and the Polperro Dolphin Swims crew!


Jim Curtis

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