The same excitement and fears that greeted the appearance of dolphins on New Jersey's Navesink River four years ago are starting to build again. A group of dolphins was first sighted on Friday, and as Brian Thompson found out today, they're still there.
"My guess would be there's a ton of bait in the water, bunker, some small red snappers in there," Mike Pawlikowski of the Oceanic Marina told NBC 4 New York on the marina's boat in the middle of the river.
In the summer of 2008, a group of about a dozen dolphins started appearing in the river after finding summer fish to feed on. By early fall, there were signs of stress among the group as their fish supplies swam out to sea. The dolphins refused to leave, and reports of dead dolphins washing ashore surfaced week after week.
Barbara Foley, of the Oceanic Marina, recalled going out into the river four years ago to "just sit there and wait for them. It was a very peaceful and beautiful feeling."
Four years ago, many wanted to mount a rescue effort to drive or lead the dolphins out to sea, but NOAA Fisheries Service refused permission. While this year's group of dolphins may face a similar fate, NOAA insists the same policy will be followed.
"It makes sense to let nature do its thing," NOAA Spokeswoman Maggie Mooney-Seus told NBC 4 New York.
Dolphins are not an endangered species.
Just a few miles off Sandy Hook, fisherman Peter Grandich of Freehold, N.J. said he has seen an "unbelievable" amount of dolphins.
Speculating that the warming climate may be partly responsible, Grandich said, "I've never seen this many. It's almost like being in Florida."