This morning a common dolphin was spotted slowly swimming through the polluted Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. Onlookers saw blood coming from a wound in its dorsal fin. The blood turned the gray waters red as the dolphin struggled to breathe in the murky NYC waters. The latest news reports reveal the injured dolphin died early this evening.
Earlier today rescuers discussed how to potentially save the stranded mammal. Typically dolphins travel together in a pod unless they become sick, injured or disoriented. Rescuers such as the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation weighed the situation with the police Emergency Services Unit and the Harbor Unit. Sometimes animals find their way out of strange waters during high tide. The police and rescuers were waiting for high tide to return at about 7:00 p.m. ET. They wanted to see of the dolphin would swim out of New York Harbor independently.
Rob DiGiovanni, the senior biologist and executive director for the Riverhead Foundation, stated, “If the animal comes on a beach or something, we can definitely respond to it. But in this case here, when the animal is free swimming, the procedure is to monitor it for another tide cycle or two and see if it moves back out again.” Often sea animals enter the New York Harbor but manage to return on their own. Last June, another dolphin was found dead in the Hudson River hear the Chelsea Piers.
The common dolphin is a preserved species and the National Marine Fisheries would have to approve any rescue attempt. In order to minimize stress for the mammal, the decision was made to wait for high tide to see if help was needed. According to USA Today, the dolphin was wedged between a pillar and a rock under the Union Street Bridge. The unusual visitor stopped moving at around 5:30 p.m. ET on Friday. Twitter is lit up with sightings of the dolphin along with questions about cleaning up the polluted Gowanus Canal.
The contaminated state of the Gowanus Canal is no mystery. The canal was completed in 1869 and was once a major transportation route for NYC and Brooklyn. Chemical plants, gas plants, mills and tanneries are some of the many facilities operated along the Gowanus Canal bounded by communities such as Red Hook,Carroll Gardens, Park Slope and Cobble Hill.
On March 2, 2010 the EPA added the canal to its Superfund National Priorities List to develop an approach to handle the contamination. It is one of the most contaminated bodies of water in the nation. Contaminants include heavy metals, PCBs, volatile organics and coal tar wastes. Public meetings were held on January 23, 2013 and January 24, 2013 to review the proposed plan and address questions. The EPA will also be accepting public comments on its proposed plan until March 28, 2013. The plan includes getting rid of some of the contaminated sediment and capping dredged spots. The estimated cost is between $467 million and $504 million.
Many New Yorkers commented on the dolphin swimming around in the disgusting waters earlier today. They marveled at the state of the canal and wondered how anyone could go into it to rescue the dolphin. While the dolphin apparently died from a wounded dorsal fin, the problem of pollution in the Gowanus Canal continues.