Img_3168If they show up, don’t feed ’em. So says this NOAA sign posted on the pier at Marine Park in Red Bank.

rebankgreen has been following up — fruitlessly, thus far — reports that the dolphin pod that has transfixed visitors to Sea Bright in recent weeks traveled up the Navesink River today, perhaps as far as Red Bank.

We got onto this story when a parking lot attendant for Ship Ahoy beach club in Sea Bright told us this afternoon that the dolphins had broken their usual pattern of going north and south in the Shrewsbury River and had headed west into the Navesink.

Shortly thereafter, Rob Mehler, a bridge operator on the Oceanic Bridge, between Rumson and Middletown, told us he was informed when he came on duty today that dolphins had gone under that span early this morning and had not returned.

Mehler said it was the first time he’d ever heard of dolphins heading that far upriver — a couple of miles west of the Shrewsbury — in the seven years he’s been working on the bridge.

In several trips back and forth along the river, though, redbankgreen failed to uncover any evidence of the dolphins. No one we spoke to, including police in Red Bank police and Mayor Mike Halfacre in Fair Haven, had heard reports of dolphin sightings.

A group of men crabbing and fishing off the pier in Red Bank’s Marine Park said they’d heard nothing about the dolphins traveling that far west — about six miles inland.

Teri Frady, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also hadn’t heard anything about a westward jaunt.

“We believe they’re following the tide,” she said. “The prey [bunkerfish] follow the tide, and they follow the prey.”

Asked how closely NOAA was monitoring the dolphin pod, Frady said, “not that closely.” She said she would investigate the reports.

Until now, the dolphins, first sighted on June 15, are believed to have traveled back and forth between the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge and the Highlands Bridge, ignoring the mouth of the Navesink.

Also today, Frady issued this press release:

Between July 3 and July 6 special agents from NOAA’s Office of Law
Enforcement made more than 150 contacts with boaters and other
watercraft operators around the bottlenose dolphins in the Shrewsbury
River for going too fast, approaching too closely or harassing the
dolphins. Eight individuals were cited for harassment under the federal
marine mammal protection act. These cases are ongoing and may result in
penalties ranging from a warning to a fine of $10,000. NJ Division of
Fish and Wildlife Conservation officers issued numerous citations for
“no wake” violations.

In general, the dolphins tolerated the relatively high level of boat
traffic and are still in the area. Most people observed boating safety
rules, offered support to enforcement agents, and kept their distance
from the dolphins. However we remain concerned about people still
attempting to interact with the dolphins or who don’t realize they are

People need to keep a distance of at least 50 yards from the animals,
observe the “no wake” zones, and not approach, feed, swim with, or
otherwise alter their natural behavior. If you see a stranded or
distressed dolphin, call the Marine Mammal Stranding Center at 609-266-0538.

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