NEW YORK (Reuters) - The carcass of a dolphin that died after becoming mired in a notoriously toxic New York City canal has been removed and will be sent for a necropsy, a marine research group said on Saturday.
The animal, a common dolphin, was first spotted in Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal on Friday morning, where it was described as looking disoriented and unwell as it struggled to avoid getting bogged down in the canal’s muddy floor.
Biologists from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, who monitored the dolphin with police and a crowd of onlookers, hoped the animal might be able to free itself and head back out to the harbor as waters rose. It died Friday evening before high tide.
“The option that gave the animal the best chance for a positive outcome was waiting,” Robert DiGiovanni, Riverhead’s executive director and senior biologist, said on Saturday. “If an animal wasn’t going to be able to survive through the next tide cycle then it was an animal that was compromised and wouldn’t make it.”
Approaching the dolphin by boat would have been difficult in the shallow, polluted canal and may have achieved little besides adding to the animal’s distress, he said.
A necropsy will be performed on the adult dolphin, estimated to weigh about 200 pounds, on Sunday at Riverhead’s laboratory on Long Island, he said. The findings and tissue samples will be shared with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Common dolphins are social animals that travel in groups known as pods. To see a solitary common dolphin, especially so far inland, is unusual, and is a sign that the animal is sick or dying, biologists and other marine officials said.
The dolphin’s unusual trek into Brooklyn - DiGiovanni could not recall a dolphin coming so far into New York City in at least two decades - brought wide attention to one of the city’s dirtier and most malodorous corners.
The Environmental Protection Agency declared the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site in 2010, calling it one of the country’s “most extensively contaminated water bodies.” Mayor Michael Bloomberg had opposed the designation, arguing the city’s own plan would have cleaned the canal in less time.
The canal is laced with heavy metals, coal tar wastes and other pollutants from the factories and tanneries that have lined its banks, the EPA says.
The EPA is still working on its plan, which is currently open to public comment, to spend an estimated $300 million to $400 million of federal money to clean up the canal.
Editing by Paul Thomasch and Doina Chiacu