NOAA: Dolphins may have returned to ocean


SEA BRIGHT — A group of dolphins first spotted in June may have left the Shrewsbury River and entered open ocean, according to a statement from the National Oceanic AtmosphericAdministration (NOAA).

“In recent days, we’ve spoken with one eyewitness who was with a group of people when he saw multiple animals leaving the Shrewsbury River on Thursday morning [Jan. 15] by swimming under the bridge and into Sandy Hook Bay, apparently headed for open ocean,” a statement from NOAA spokeswoman Teri Frady said.

“At present, the location and condition of 13 of the original 16 animals is unknown. Without confirmed resightings, it is not possible to know if they are alive or dead, still in the river system or elsewhere. Aside from the eyewitness account, there have been no confirmed sightings since Jan 13.”

Local officials and environmental groups had advocated for NOAA to intervene and help the dolphins swim back to the ocean before the weather became too cold.

NOAA had insisted the best course of action was to treat the dolphin situation as nature at work, rather than introducing more stress “in the form of human interventions that are unlikely to work and may cause or hasten mortalities.”

NOAA Fisheries Service held a public seminar on bottlenose dolphins at Monmouth University on Jan. 13.

Earlier in the month, Andrew Mencinsky, executive director of the Surfers’ Environmental Alliance (SEA), said NOAA should have stepped in to help.

“We are extremely angry that NOAA has taken this position, [by] which they have completely ignored many of the local environmental organizations, local marine rescue people, as well ignored the pleas of elected officials,” he said in an interview.

In a letter to NOAA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) also urged the organization to intervene.

“NOAA will conduct a thorough waterbased survey of the Shrewsbury-Navesink as soon as weather and icing conditions permit,” the statement from Frady said.

Anyone who sees or has seen the dolphins since Jan. 13 is asked to e-mail nj.dolphins@