World-First Video of Dolphins Stealing From Crab Pots Leaves Scientists Fascinated

World-First Video of Dolphins Stealing From Crab Pots Leaves Scientists Fascinated

In a bit of never-before-seen film, a dolphin was recorded off the coast of Australia robbing the bait from a crab trap.

The behavior was captured by a camera mounted on the trap by the Dolphin Discovery Centre in Bunbury, Western Australia.

In the footage, the dolphins can be seen using their eyes, bodies, teeth, and beak—officially called a rostrum—to pilfer the crabbers’ pots.

“The footage was certainly surprising—we knew something was happening,” said Dolphin Discovery Centre volunteer and filmmaker Axel Grossman. “But we had no clue that the dolphins were acting to such an extent, through so much effort, learning and physical and mental problem solving [to steal the food].”


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ABC News AU talked to a 40-year crabber from the Bunbury area who said that this phenomenon isn’t new, but also isn’t exactly old.

“In the last 20-odd years, it happens all the time. If you see some dolphins around you can guarantee you’re going to get your crab nets raided,” crabber Russell Dawson said.

Mr. Dawson is getting around the clever cetaceans by replacing the fishy bait with a box filled with bait that’s locked shut with narrow steel cables. Small holes will allow the crabs to detect and get a pinch of the bait inside where the larger rostrums of the dolphins cannot.

Experts at the centre said they look forward to investigating this new human-dolphin relationship. The intelligent dolphins are capable of adapting rapidly to changes in their environment, and the more interactions like this with anthropogenic elements in their environment, the better, the experts say, they can understand how we can structure our marine activity to accommodate and safeguard the animals.

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This article by Andy Corbley was first published by Good News Network on 13 November 2023. Lead Image: Dolphins raiding crab pots – Supplied by Dolphin Discovery Centre.

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