Tourism affects the behavioural budget of the common dolphin Delphinus sp in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand

Karen Stockin, David Lusseau, Vicky Binedell, Nicky Wiseman, Mark B. Orams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Citations (Scopus)


Common dolphins Delphinus sp. are frequently targeted by tourism operations in New Zealand waters, yet there is a paucity of data on potential impacts faced by this species. Transition matrix models, used widely in population ecology, have recently been applied to behavioural transitions in order to provide successful management guidelines. We detail the use of Markov chain models to assess the impact of tourism activities on the behavioural state of common dolphins in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand. First-order time discrete Markov chain models were used to describe transition probabilities in both control and impact scenarios. The effect of boat interactions was quantified by comparing transition probabilities of both control and impact chains. Foraging and resting bouts were significantly disrupted by boat interactions to a level that raises concern about the sustainability of this impact. Both the duration of bouts and the overall time spent in these 2 behavioural states decreased. Foraging dolphins took significantly longer to return to their initial behavioural state in the presence of the tour boat. There was also an increased preference to shift behaviour to socialising or milling after tour boat interactions. Impacts identified in the present study are similar to those previously reported for bottlenose dolphins, a coastal species typically considered to be more susceptible to cumulative anthropogenic impacts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-295
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Markov-chain models
  • dolphin tourism
  • common dolphin
  • Delphinus sp
  • disturbance
  • foraging
  • New Zealand
  • BAY


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