Dolphins_rumsonA kayaker watches a dolphin off Rumson last week.

Today’s Star-Ledger has an Associated Press story reporting that the folks at a marine animal advocacy group are getting anxious about a federal agency’s reluctance to tease our visiting dolphins out of the Navesink River and back out to their customary habitat, the Atlantic Ocean.

The story’s on the website of the Sledger’s sibling newspaper, the Jersey Journal.

It says, in part:

Robert Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, is worried that with every day that goes by, the dolphins are getting more comfortable in a place they cannot survive in for long.

“We want them to come up with some kind of plan as we approach the fall,” Schoelkopf said yesterday. “We don’t want to be the bad guys again like in 1993, when four of them were in the river and they (federal officials) told us to leave them alone. Then the ice closed in on the river and four of them died.

“It’s bad enough that happened with four, but now we have 15 to 20, and we don’t want to have the same thing happen if they don’t let us act until the last minute.”

Teri Frady, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has jurisdiction over the animals, said they are fine where they are — for now.

“We’re looking at all contingencies, including having to move them,” she said. “But we’re some time away from when we would worry about them.”

The dolphin pod, then estimated to include 12 to 15 adults and calves, showed up in the Shrewsbury on June 15, and spent weeks shuttling between the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge and the Highlands Bridge. Later reports estimated there were 15 to 20 dolphins in the group.

At that time, the concern was that the dolphins could be injured or stressed out by boat and jet ski traffic.

On July 7, they were first seen in the Navesink, are believed to have remained there, though there’s been some speculation that their number may be down.

The last redbankgreen heard, the dolphins were just west of the Oceanic Bridge on Sunday, the location where they appear to have spent most of the past two weeks. But a group of kayakers who were out in that vicinity Tuesday afternoon told us they hadn’t seen them.

The pod, or members of it, was spotted as far west as the osprey nest in the river opposite Red Bank, reader Mike Collins told us last week.

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