Snubfin dolphins (Orcaella heinsohni) were formally described as a species in 2005 and are now known to be endemic to Northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. In Western Australia, snubfins are mainly found in the Kimberley.
In Roebuck Bay, the population size of snubfin dolphins is estimated to be 130, making it the largest known population in the Kimberley region. This population is thought to reside in the Yawuru Nagulagun / Roebuck Bay Marine Park and Kimberley Ports Authority waters and occasionally visit surrounding areas such as Cable Beach. During their life they get scars, nicks and notches on their dorsal fin which can be used as natural tags to tell individual dolphins apart. This means we can build profiles of individuals including calving and preferred associates.
The population status of snubfins elsewhere in Western Australia is unknown. A few individuals have been repeatedly seen in the Pilbara in areas such as Exmouth Gulf and inshore of Barrow Island. These are presumed to be vagrants travelling down from
the Kimberley and may be colonising areas further south. However, a viable extant population has not been identified in the Pilbara.
Now you can contribute valuable information about Australian snubfin dolphins, as well as other marine mammals, with the Dolphin Watch tracking and identification smartphone app. Download the Dolphin Watch app to your tablet or phone and start observing dolphins and dugongs in Roebuck Bay.
Each snubfin dolphin has a distinct dorsal fin located on the top of its body. This identification guide includes photographs of many of the snubfin dolphins that have been observed in Roebuck Bay.