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UPDATE: Dolphin Trapped in Gowanus Canal Has Died

Witnesses say the animal stopped moving after getting stuck between a rock and a pillar.

Update, 6:15 p.m.:
The dolphin trapped in the Gowanus Canal has died, WINS 1010 reports. 

The lost animal reportedly stopped moving after getting stuck between a rock and a pillar below the Union Street Bridge shortly after 5:30 p.m.


Update, 4:00 pm: More details continue to pour in regarding the dolphin currently trapped in Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal.

According to Riverhead Foundation, the dolphin was first spotted at the entrance of the waterway at 9:30 Friday morning by a citizen who phoned in the sighting.

Julika Wocial, Rescue Program Supervisor and Marine biologist for Riverhead Foundation, described the mammal as a common dolphin, adult, 6 to 7 feet long and weighing approximately 200 pounds.

For the safety of the dolphin, “we have to wait for one or two tide cycles” before any attempts to help move the creature can be made, Wocial said. Right now, experts are collecting data on the dolphin’s behavior, breathing rates and other information to determine its health.

“It is exhibiting concerning behavior,” said Wocial, “different from what it would be doing in its natural habitat.” It was unclear, however, whether the behavior changes were due to shallow water, sickness or other factors.

While the animal was breaching, you could see clouds of “black mayonnaise” in the water around it. A crowd of 200 bystanders had gathered by 3 p.m. to observe the trapped mammal swimming around the polluted Superfund site. The cut originally reported on the dolphin’s dorsal fin is superficial, witnesses have confirmed.

The most unusual thing about the incident is that the dolphin is alone, said Wocial. Typically, dolphins travel in pods and are social creatures.

“Just touching the dolphin could cause it stress,” she said. “We don’t know what the outcome will be.” 

Because the dolphin is a federally protected animal, rescuers have to be authorized to take action or attempt a rescue. No operations will be performed overnight, reps have stated, because they have to consider the safety of the responders.

David Kirby, a Gowanus resident and author of Death at Sea World, was seemingly pessimistic about the dolphin leaving the canal. “It’s really bad for this dolphin,” he told Patch. “It was in trouble before the canal. They travel in pods, so the fact that he was alone definitely means he was in distress.”

Meanwhile, William H. Gonzalez, who works at the Gowanus Pump Station, was rather distressed by the situation himself.

“This is a poor, innocent, defenseless animal,” he said. “I can’t believe the city isn’t doing anything to help get it out. It’s one of the smartest animals in the world buried in all that muck and it’s sad we can’t do anything.” 


Update, 2:37 pm: A statement was just issued by NYPD regarding the status of the dolphin.

"The NYPD Harbor and Emergency Service Units on the scene at the Gowanus Canal are with marine mammal experts from the Riverhead Foundation," stated Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne.

"At its recommendation, we are waiting for the next high tide at 7:10 p.m. to see if the dolphin can free itself," he wrote.

Police will stand by to assist Riverhead Foundation personnel when and if they decide it may be necessary "to enter the water in the morning to aid the dolphin as the tide recedes."

Stay with Patch for updates.


A dolphin mysteriously found its way in to a toxic Brooklyn canal Friday afternoon but has been unable to swim back out.

Rebecca Rogers-Hawson of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy said she received a call from Councilman Brad Lander at around noon, asking her to investigate the Gowanus Canal where Sackett St. meets the waterway.

"It's the first dolphin I've seen in the Gowanus Canal, and it's probably sick or injured," she said.

Rogers-Hawson speculated that the animal may have swum into the canal during high tide, got stuck and is now lost.

About a dozen police officers and three trucks from the NYPD Emergency Services Unit, parked in the Fourth Ave. Transport lot on Sackett St. near Nevins, are attempting to assist the animal.

Its dorsal fin is also cut and bleeding.

"I first saw him swimming near the Union St. bridge with a trail of blood following him," said Rogers-Hawson.

Vangeline Gand January 31, 2013 at 05:38 AM
The Gowanus canal is man made, and its high level of toxicity and pollution is due to us. We need to have a protocol in place for rapid rescue to help these large mammals swim back to the bay when they get trapped. No large mammal should ever die trapped in the Gowanus canal. We have a moral responsibility to have a protocol of rapid rescue in place, and we need our local officials to explore every option to prevent future deaths, How can the RIverhead Foundation can say in the same breath that the water was not toxic enough to kill the dolphin but too dangerously polluted for human beings to go in? I think they are covering their bad decision. You can do something about this and sign my petition here on sign.org:" rapid rescue of dolphins and whales in Gowanus canal". 150 people have already signed.
idontwantastupidpatchaccount January 31, 2013 at 11:42 AM
Damien, yes, I am operating from an informed position. I rescue animals for a living, and have been doing so for 20 yrs. And yes, had I been there I would have intervened to assist the innocent, suffering dolphin. At the very least, someone should have had enough compassion to shoot it and put it out of its misery rather than gawking and photographing it as it died a slow, tortured, painful death. Mr. zoologist, what is the use of all of your education??? Yes, I think you are worthless for a reason.
Damien February 01, 2013 at 09:58 AM
It's not hubris -- it's science! I am usually "right" and when I have to use my knowledge to get through om pretty dense skulls, I will gladly enjoy sharing my right-ness.
Damien February 01, 2013 at 10:10 AM
Vangeline -- how do you prevent future deaths of dolphins who die from the complications of old age? Do you know som magical way to hold back time or something? THE ANIMAL WAS TERMINALLY ILL ! That is why he ended up in he canal in the first place. The chance of another dolphin -- sick or otherwise --ever again venturing into that canal is zero. Again, you need TO READ and COMPREHEND! The experts on hand knew the score. This is what they do. They knew the dolphin was doomed and the hope was that it would die quickly or swim out of sight and then die. You have dingbats on here who think that finding lost cats and dog makes them animal rescue experts.
Damien February 01, 2013 at 10:14 AM
Rescuing animals "for a living" has nothing to do with the science of marine biology and the protocols attached to a very sensitive marine science issue. Hey, you can run around catching dogs with nets and declare yourself to be the town dog catcher --but who cares? The truth is that your sentiments and dopey comments were rooted in sentimentality and ignorance. I honestly believe that even though the proof has been shoved right under your nose, you will never be able to undertand the scientific process and the basic protocols inherent to any kind of zoologocal rescue. The dolphin died from geriatric (old age) complications, but you migt want to see if yo have toxic chemicals in your brain -- after all -- you do live awfully close to that canal. Remember,there are two kinds of animal rescue people - those who want to help animals and those who simply want to crucify human beings. You fall into the second group. READ THIS: http://thedamienzone.com/2013/01/29/autopsy-results-of-gowanus-canal-dead-dolphin-show-the-truth/


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