The head of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine tells the Associated Press that the five remaining Navesink and Shrewsbury river dolphins haven't been seen since Thursday and may be dead


Bob Schoelkopf, the center's co-director, tells the AP that increasing ice in the rivers, coupled with the fact that no one has reported seeing the animals in more than three days, indicates they may have perished. 

From the report:

"I don't think they're alive anymore," he said Monday. "They
haven't been seen since Thursday, and the ice started freezing
then. We probably won't see them until the spring when they wash up

"The last time I saw them, they were in such a weakened
condition, so thin, that I can't see how they would have
survived," he said.

A spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
, which has jurisdiction over the animals, did not
immediately return a call seeking comment Monday afternoon.

Schoelkopf has been the loudest voice calling on federal
wildlife officials to authorize an intervention to get the dolphins
out of the river and back out to sea.

The stranding center is one of about 16 government agencies and non-governmental organizations that NOAA officials say they have consulted about the health and behavior of the 16-member dolphin pod that moved into the inland rivers last June. Of those, it is the only one that has dissented from NOAA's decision not to intervene with the dolphins to move them out to sea.

Elected officials including Sen. Robert Menendez and Rep. Frank Pallone have joined the chorus of citizens who've called on NOAA to remove the dolphins to prevent them from becoming trapped under ice.

The Newsday version of the AP story does not address the possibility that the last five dolphins may have left the river for Sandy Hook Bay and the open waters of the Atlantic.

On January 11, two of the dolphins swam out into the bay and spent two hours there before reuniting with the other three in the upper Shrewsbury.


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