The death of the young female, which marine experts confirmed was part of the 16-member pod that’s been visiting the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers since mid-June, has brought increased pressure on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to shepherd the animals downriver to Sandy Hook Bay and the open sea.
It also comes amid indications that most of the pod may have left the vicinity of the Oceanic Bridge, where its been feeding since July 7.
From a report in today’s Star-Ledger:
“It’s a wake-up call that time is running out,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.), who wrote to NOAA in July urging the development of a strategy. “They clearly can’t survive the winter, so they (NOAA staff) need to come up with a plan of action. And from what I can see, they don’t have one.”
Robert C. Schoelkopf, founding director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, told the Press:
“Obviously, everybody’s upset about it, because this is something we’ve been predicting will happen if the animals can’t get out of there and won’t get out of there,” Schoelkopf said.
Hopefully, the dolphin’s death will “spark more of a federal interest in coming up with a plan to get ’em out of there, not just simply wait and see,” he said.
But the NOAA, which has jurisdiction over the animals, has been reluctant to put into effect a plan drawn up over the summer to drive the dolphins downriver. NOAA spokeswoman Teri Frady told the Press that “My understanding is that intervention is an option but it’s still not a good one. It carries this very high risk not only of failure but also of dead animals.”
More from the Press:
The dolphin was discovered at about 8 a.m. Wednesday by a Fair Haven resident, who took a stroll to the sandy riverbank at the end of De Normandie Avenue, according to [Jim] Cerruti [owner of Fair Haven Yacht Works].
Immediately after seeing the washed-up dolphin, the resident notified Cerruti, who called the Marine Mammal Stranding Center. Within 20 minutes, a local representative from the center arrived at the marina with a truck.
“I was hoping it would still be alive,” Cerruti said. “I almost didn’t think it was real. It almost looked like a rubber dolphin. That’s how fake it looked.”
When on the shore, the mammal showed no signs of injury or cuts, Cerruti said. Once the dolphin was moved, blood began to seep out of its mouth and eyes, he said.
The dolphin was about 5 feet 8 inches long and was considered a “sub-adult,” more than a year old but not fully grown, Schoelkopf said.
It was taken to New Bolton Center, a large animal clinic in Kennett Square, Pa., that treats many racehorses, he said. The center is part of the University of Pennsylvania.
The dead dolphin “does look like it’s somewhat thinner” than it should be, but “that could be a postmortem condition,” Schoelkopf said.
The apparent thinness also could be due to competition for food between adult dolphins and juveniles, he said.
As to whether the pod is still in the Navesink, the Press reports that
NOAA’s last trip to observe the dolphins was on Sept. 17, when about 10 were spotted in the vicinity of the bridge, according to Frady of NOAA Fisheries Service.
The service has not received any recent reports of confirmed dolphin sightings, she said.
The Sledger says local residents have seen the dolphins in recent days.