The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has jurisdiction over the pod of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins that has been in local inland waters since June, has decided not to try luring or driving the animals out to sea, the agency says in a press release issued this morning.
From the announcement:
Monitoring by NOAA dolphin researchers over the past week revealed no indications of stress, illness, or feeding problems. They identified 12 individuals moving easily from the Navesink to the Shrewsbury in two groups.
These animals are in typical habitat, food is present, and we have no reason to believe they are stressed, said Teri Rowles, director of NOAAs National Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Program. Were not going to interfere in what appears to be a completely natural phenomenon, especially when doing so carries a high risk of harming healthy animals.
NOAA consulted with a number of experts on the condition and behavior of these animals in this habitat and determined the conditions of the estuary are well within those tolerated by bottlenose dolphins.
There is also general agreement that efforts to move the animals from the area by luring, chasing, or catching them for relocation would be difficult, potentially dangerous for the animals and people, and not likely to succeed.
Migratory bottlenose dolphins likely expand and contract their range in response to changes in environmental conditions, and this may well be what we are seeing, said Larry Hansen, a NOAA researcher who studies the northern coastal stock of bottlenose dolphins to which this group most likely belongs. They can spend the winter in colder water and even endure icy conditions, as long as there is enough to eat.
NOAA has scheduled a press conference for early this afternoon.