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Last NJ Dolphins Escape Icy River–Maybe

The last of 16 dolphins who have been up the Shrewsbury River in New Jersey since the summer may have escaped back to the ocean. Witnesses at Bahr’s Landing restaurant say they saw three to five dolphins on January 15, but haven’t seen them swim back in.

Of course, it’s very easy to imagine dolphins slipping by even the most diligent watchers–let alone people otherwise occupied with eating and working in a restaurant. But it’s nice to think they got out. Bob Schoelkopf, co-director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine says the last time he saw them they were thin and weak.

Over the summer 16 dolphins were spotted in the river–much to everyone’s excitement and worry, first about boating accidents and then about the ice.

In 1993 dolphins drowned in the river after it froze; people had tried to shoo them out to sea, but they went under the ice.

So far this year three dolphins have turned up dead.

The Marine Mammal Stranding Center, alone with many dolphin watchers and lovers, wanted to try to push or lure them out to sea. But the federal officials in charge of dolphins, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, wouldn’t let them. Not even if they did the rescue work on their own. They claimed that the dolphins were just trying to expand their territory and people should stand back and let them. The Chronicle Herald in Canada ran an obnoxious headline on an AP story: Group fights science to save ‘frightened’ dolphins.

It’s amazing to find these Bush administration officials embracing science at all. Or evolution–they seem to be arguing that if the dolphins die it’s part of some natural selection process. I can understand not wanting to spend federal money to attempt a rescue, but banning a private, highly trained rescue group is going way too far. It’s debatable whether it’s worthwhile, but if someone decides it’s worthwhile for them, who is NOAA to stand in the way?

Saying that we can’t possibly interfere with nature is ridiculous. We interfere with nature all the time. We fish, hunt, pollute, develop. We also rehabilitate wildlife in every state. I certainly hope in the Obama administration we’re allowed once again to save a handful of wild animals without government interference.

Photo by Jackie, Sister72

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