Beached Dolphin Dies in Belmar
Despite volunteer efforts, mammal doesn't survive wait for expert help
A dolpin died on the Belmar beach Saturday afternoon after beachgoers pulled ashore the struggling mammal that didn't survive the wait for a team of experts to arrive from southern New Jersey, witnesses and officials said.
According to witnesses, surfers spotted the dolphin at about 2 p.m. just off 17th Avenue beach and soon realized something was awry. The surfers and several beachgoers, in contact with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, eventually used beach towels to carry the dolphin to shore where it died soon after, witnesses said.
The dolphin apparently had swallowed a fishing hook and was wrapped in fishing line, witnesses said. The stranding center's director, Sheila Dean, said the cause of death wouldn't be determined for at least 48 hours, when preliminary results of a necropsy are completed.
A small crew from the center arrived to the scene nearly two hours after the incident began and with the help of a few Good Samaritans used a large blue sling to carry the dolphin to their small box truck rigged with special equipment. Dean said the common male dolphin will be transported to the University of Pennsylvania for a full necropsy.
The Brigantine center is the only federal and state authorized facility in New Jersey to handle stranded marine mammals and sea turtles, Dean said.
A handful of locals and other beachgoers who stayed with the dolphin until expert help arrived were visibly shaken.
"You do all you can. It's a shame, it really is," Carol Wolfe of Spring Lake Heights said.
Wolfe said that she along with several other instant volunteers rushed to aid the struggling dolphin and attempted to remove the hook that it seemingly had swallowed.
Wolfe said she was watching her son surf when she saw a fin in the water and at first thought it might have been a shark.
Sonia Reynolds, 10, of Freehold, was another Good Samaritan who helped bring the mammal to safety.
Sonia, in good spirits despite the tragedy, said that she had helped initially when several people tried pushing the dolphin out to sea.
Robbi Lehman, of Wall, was one of the half-dozen volunteers who guarded the dolphin until the stranding center crew arrived.
"It's sad, absolutely sad. All you can do is hope," Lehman said.