Federal Marine Fisheries officials have decided against any rescue effort for 12 wayward dolphins swimming in New Jersey's Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers, opting instead to monitor the situation and "let nature take its course."
A source told NBCNewYork.com that options to lure or drive the mammals out to sea have been abandoned as of now, the decision instead being made to "let nature take its course."
“These animals are in typical habitat, food is present, and we have no reason to believe they are stressed,” said Teri Rowles, director of NOAA’s National Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Program. “We’re not going to interfere in what appears to be a completely natural phenomenon, especially when doing so carries a high risk of harming healthy animals.”
Since the dolphins first entered the rivers last June, NOAA has said repeatedly that rescue efforts generally turn out to be fatal for the animals.
The director of New Jersey's Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigatine, Bob Schoelkopf, told WNBC's Brian Thompson that chances are the remaining dolphins will die, just as two have died in recent weeks.
“They've died in the past and I don't see any reason for that to change," he said.
But because the center gets its animal rescue from the federal Fisheries Agency, Schoelkopf rules out any rescue by his volunteers. "We have to go by what they (NOAA) say or lose strandings (permits)," he said.
A few dolphins are believed to have found their way out to sea a few weeks ago, while the two that were found dead recently both had pneumonia, according to necropsies.
All summer long, the animals were a popular tourist attraction along the two rivers that empty into Sandy Hook Bay just south of New York City.