In light of a second bottlenose dolphin dying in the Navesink River, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) this morning talked with Robert Schoelkopf, Director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, and officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to get an update on what the federal government is doing to evacuate the dolphins from the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers.
The New Jersey congressman was informed that the Marine Mammal Stranding Center and NOAA are now working with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop a plan to move the dolphins back to the Atlantic Ocean.
"After talking with federal officials, I am encouraged that multiple agencies are developing a comprehensive plan to evacuate these dolphins," Pallone said. "However, action needs to be taken as soon as possible.
"Based on my conversations with federal officials today, I believe they recognize the importance of acting immediately," Pallone continued. "The plan seems to be to take less invasive steps initially like using noise to herd the dolphins. Physical removal would only be used as a last resort if all else fails.
"Every day that goes by puts the remaining dolphins in danger. There is also a concern that the dolphins could swim deeper into the rivers. They need to be evacuated to their natural habitat in the Atlantic Ocean," Pallone concluded.
Pallone is concerned that as the water gets colder and food grows scarce, the dolphins will be endangered. The water temperature in the rivers has already fallen to 65 degrees, only seven degrees higher than conditions that become dangerous for dolphins. The number of Menhaden, the primary source of food for dolphins, is also falling in the two rivers as the water gets colder. Jersey dolphins normally move south to the Carolinas for winter, and those in the Atlantic Ocean now are already beginning their southern migration.
Today's phone conversations followed two letters that Pallone sent to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) asking that it develop a plan for the safe evacuation of these dolphins. The New Jersey congressman has also urged NOAA to work directly with local wildlife officials.