Dolphin dies after it appears in the Gowanus Canal
by Andrew Pavia
Jan 29, 2013 | 667 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print

A dolphin became confused and ended up in probably one of the worst places in New York for an aquatic animal: the Gowanus Canal.

The animal was spotted in the heavily polluted waterway on Friday morning, bringing curious onlookers from their homes out into the cold to watch the dolphin try to find it’s way out.

It was the first dolphin sighting in the 1.8-mile-long canal’s history, according to David Kirby, a marine wildlife writer and researcher who has authored two books on marine life.

The dolphin was suffering from an injured fin that had been cut by the walls of the canal, which the disoriented animal rubbed up against the sides in an attempt to escape.

“The dolphin is lost, sick and injured,” Kirby said, adding that it was unlikely the animal would live. “This isn't going to be a good story.”

Police and other first responders were loading and unloading vehicles with equipment to try and save the dolphin, however around 2:30 p.m. the rescue operation was abandoned and the crews left.

Kirby said that dolphins are protected by the federal government, so local responders must gain proper approval from Washington before they are allowed to intervene. He said that before anyone would be able to attempt a rescue they would need approval from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Kirby speculated that rescue operations would likely resume after 7 p.m. when the tide would be high again.

However the dolphin didn’t make it that long. Around 6 p.m. it was announced that the animal had died. Some onlookers said they saw the dolphin bang its head on the side of the canal, while others blamed the toxic waters.

The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Prevention conducted a necropsy Sunday afternoon. It found that the dolphin suffered from stomach ulcers, kideny stones, and parasites, and might not have lived much longer even if it hadn’t strayed into the polluted canal.

Experts are now saying that the animal likely entered the canal from the Atlantic Ocean and was stuck there due to the low tide.

Park Slope resident Jeremy Leonard watched the dolphin in the cold weather for over an hour, but had no desire to go home. He first learned of the dolphin being trapped in the canal from a Facebook post.

“How many times do you get to see a dolphin in the Gowanus Canal?” he asked.

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a $500 million project to clean the canal, which was recently designated a Superfund site. 

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