LAMEQUE, N.B. – Six dolphins who stubbornly refused efforts to free them from a shallow bay in northern New Brunswick appear to have been finally coaxed back to open ocean.
“We don’t see them anymore,” fisheries spokeswoman Krista Petersen said Friday. “They are definitely in the deeper water outside the stranding area.”
Petersen says rescuers tried new tactics Friday morning with the dolphins, who had been stranded near Lameque for more than a week and resisted days of rescue attempts.
She said 10 officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, four members of the Marine Animal Response Society and three volunteers used stretchers Friday to ease the dolphins across shallow areas.
“At one point the dolphins got out of a deep area and got sort of stuck a bit on some sand, so they were able to put the stretchers underneath the bodies of the dolphins to help them move. People would be on either side of the stretchers to help them move over a sandbar, for example,” she said
She said the animals were brought to open water and haven’t been seen since.
“Some folks will stay on site and monitor to make sure that the dolphins do stay out in the deeper water,” said Petersen.
Seven Atlantic white-sided dolphins became stranded last week, with one dying two days later.
The remaining six dolphins had appeared to be in good health. But to get back to open ocean, they had to move through an area that’s only about a metre deep at high tide, and dolphins don’t like shallow water.
“We could definitely tell that we were disturbing them, which is part of the process,” Andrew Reid of the marine response society said after a failed rescue attempt Thursday. “They were evading us. Swimming quite rapidly, swimming under the boat. So they definitely were being annoyed.”
Reid said the dolphins are very social, and may have ended up in the shallows because one of them — possibly their leader — was sick. Or perhaps they were simply chasing food, he said.
Atlantic white-sided dolphins are common in Atlantic Canada. They can reach 10 feet in length and 500 pounds.