Dolphins in Shrewsbury River (New Jersey) Being Evaluated and Monitored (October 25, 2000) 2000/10/25 Dolphins in River Being Monitored

Animals Appear Healthy;

Intervention Not Warranted

at the Present

George Liles
PH: (508) 495-2378


Teri Frady
PH: 508 495-2239


NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center

N         E         W         S

Woods Hole, Mass. -- Dolphin experts are monitoring and evaluating two dolphins in the Shrewsbury River in east central New Jersey. Local dolphin researchers and officials with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the federal agency responsible for marine mammal management, are watching the dolphins to determine whether intervention is necessary.

"The dolphins were sighted in the river in September, and biologists have been observing them closely for several weeks now," said Dana Hartley, the NMFS stranding network coordinator. "We are concerned about the welfare of these animals, but at this point they do not appear to be in danger," Hartley said.

The dolphins are being monitored by local members of the NMFS-authorized Stranding Network, including Bob Schoelkopf of the New Jersey Marine Mammal Stranding Center. This week NMFS also asked a dolphin researcher, Richard Mallon-Day, to evaluate the animals. NMFS also asked David Schofield of the National Aquarium in Baltimore to help locate the dolphins from the air. The team of biologists has observed the two dolphins and found that the animals appear to be an adult female and a calf. The animals are apparently feeding on a plentiful supply of food fish, particularly menhaden. The abundance of food fish may be the reason the dolphins haven't left the river.

Mallon-Day noted that both dolphins appear to be in good health. They have no visible external wounds, no apparent respiratory problems, and they are swimming strongly. In four hours of observation earlier this week, the two dolphins repeatedly passed through a large school of menhaden in the center of the main dredged channel.

The observers are continuing to monitor the dolphins. It is not yet known whether the animals are inshore or offshore dolphins. Offshore dolphins died in the same river in the winter of 1993, but since that time other dolphins have navigated in and out of the river without incident. Dolphin experts have advised NMFS that these dolphins will probably find their way safely out of the river if they are the coastal species.

NMFS is preparing a plan for capturing the dolphins and rehabilitating them if necessary or releasing them if they are healthy. There are, however, risks to the animals involved being captured. NMFS is not likely to intervene or to authorize intervention unless the dolphins remain in the river as the weather turns colder and the food fish leave the area.

The public should be aware that these dolphins are protected from harassment under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. People should not feed dolphins or approach them or interact with them in any way unless they are authorized to do so by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service * 166 Water Street * Woods Hole, MA * 02543
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