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DOLPHINS RETURN TO SHREWSBURY RIVER

dolphins shrewsbury navesink

A pair of dolphins cross in the Shrewsbury River at sunset Sunday, as seen from McLoone’s Rum Runner in Sea Bright.

The dolphins are back.

A year after 16 dolphins took up what turned out to be a prolonged and controversial residence in local rivers, a pod estimated by observers to include about six animals was seen frolicking in the Shrewsbury River Sunday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, dolphins were reported to have been spotted in Oceanport Creek, much farther south than the pod that visited for seven months last year is believed to have ventured.

dolphins-state-police-marine

A pair of patrol boats from the State Police marine unit in the Shrewsbury Sunday night.

That report was made to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, said Scott Longfield of Fair Haven, a volunteer with the organization.

“The fact that they went inland as far as Oceanport, that’s alarming,” Longfield said. “It’s a dead end, and the water is shallower. If they get stuck, they’re stranded.”

Longfield says it is unknown at this point if the two reports concerned the same dolphins, and if those animals are from the same pod that visisted last year.

Experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has legal oversight of the animals, last year compiled a database of dorsal fin markings that are distinct to each animal, and can be expected to use that information to determine if these are the same animals.

The dolphins became the subject of a fierce battle last year as winter approached, with animal activists calling on NOAA to relocate the animals before the river froze over and NOAA insisting the dolphins were healthy and able to make their own escape.

Eventually, five are believed to have swum back into Sandy Hook Bay in January, though the discovery of dolphin corpses in the spring raised questions about how many, if any, survived.

Molly McLoone, manager of McLoone’s Rum Runner in Sea Bright, tells redbankgreen that Sunday was the first time dolphins had been seen in the river in months. A parking lot next to the restaurant last summer became an unofficial dolphin-watching spot, attracting tourists and TV news crews almost daily.

“The crowd is starting to gather in the parking lot,” she said Sunday evening.

Manny Carabel of Red Bank said he saw the dolphins at 5p from his boat near the mouth of the Navesink River in Sea Bright.

With other boaters and a State Police Marine Patrol boat in the waters, Carabel said he observed the pod swimming south past McLoone’s until it reached the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge. There, the pod turned around and headed north, staying in the Shrewsbury.

Last year’s group spent a month travesing the Shrewsbury before heading west up the Navesink River. The animals ventured as far as Red Bank, but spent most of their time feeding on menhaden just west of the Oceanic Bridge.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
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