The status of tropical inshore dolphins is a literature review for policy makers. Australia’s tropical inshore waters are some of the least impacted by human activities on a global scale but also a hotspot for marine mammal extinction risk. Knowledge of dolphin distribution, abundance, trends, habitat use and population structure applies only to discrete areas for some species. Anthropogenic threats align with those ranked as the greatest to marine systems globally: habitat loss and degradation via coastal development; bycatch in fishing gear and shark nets; climate change, including ocean warming, acidification and extreme weather events. Assessing conservation status remains challenging without estimates of abundance in unsurveyed areas. Scenario modelling/sensitivity analysis of the number of mature individuals in the national ‘population’ of each species should be conducted. The integration of multiple data sources will inform conservation listings in the face of uncertainty.