Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dead dolphin found in Shrewsbury River

Another dead dolphin has been discovered, this time in the Shrewsbury River, but it's not a bottlenose dolphin like the ones that have been living there and in the Navesink River since June, officials said Friday.

The dead marine mammal was a common dolphin, an offshore species, said Robert C.

Schoelkopf, founding director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine.

It was found near the construction barge next to the Highlands-Sea Bright bridge, according to Schoelkopf.

It's "very unusual" for a common dolphin to be in the river because it is a deep-sea species, he said.

"We usually don't see 'em," he said. "We get strandings of common (dolphins) along the coast, but not the river like that."

An estimated 16 bottlenose dolphins swam from the ocean and Sandy Hook Bay into the Shrewsbury River in June and then headed for the Navesink River in July. Two of the dolphins recently were found dead in the Navesink, two are unaccounted for and the rest are spending time in both rivers, according to federal officials.

"This morning's news of the death of a common dolphin serves as a reminder that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) must move to expedite the removal process for the remaining bottlenose dolphins in the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers," according to a statement from Rep. Frank J. Pallone Jr., D-N.J.

"As the weather continues to grow colder and conditions for the dolphins become more dangerous, NOAA must implement its plan to safely move the dolphins so that preventable deaths can be avoided," Pallone said.

But NOAA still plans to leave the dolphins where they are unless they become stranded, ill or distressed, according to Teri Frady, a NOAA spokeswoman.

Menhaden, a prime source of nourishment for the dolphins, are still in the area.

A harbor seal spotted at the southern end of the Shrewsbury was a photographed with a menhaden fish in its mouth, Schoelkopf said.

Meanwhile, a necropsy will be done on the dead dolphin at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa., to determine "how fresh it is, whether it died in the river or died and floated in," he said.

"The initial ID on the dead dolphin is that it's a common dolphin, a different species from the group that we have in the Shrewsbury-Navesink," Frady said in an e-mail.

Todd B. Bates: (732) 643-4237 or

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"