Last Monday afternoon, Jasmine Benitez, the assistant director of public programs for Rocking the Boat, and a group of girls from St. Ann Catholic School headed down to the river where they saw something – well – fishy. Moving past the beach in Hunts Point Riverside Park, the kids saw a fin floating just above the water, and at first thought it belonged to a shark. But in fact, they had spied a dolphin who made a solo appearance in the Bronx River while Benitez and the girls were getting their boats ready for a daily cruise.
“We were extremely shocked, though excited, to say the least,” said Benitez.
According to Maggie Greenfield, the executive director of the Bronx River Alliance, a local environmental protection organization, the dolphin was a short-beaked common dolphin, and it is not a great sign for a dolphin this young to be on its own. She said the dolphin probably got away from its pod and came this far upriver in pursuit of some rare Hunts Point fish.
This is not the first time dolphins have made an appearance in a New York City river.
Back in 2013, a bottlenose dolphin popped up in the East River off 90th Street, and according to The New York Times, it hung out in the river all afternoon. Another bottlenose dolphin was also spotted in the Hudson River back in 2012 near 120th Street; by the time it reached 14th Street, marine experts reported that the river water had harmed its skin.
Benitez said the Hunts Point-bound dolphin looked healthy and there were no signs of distress from what she could tell. The dolphin came out of the water and blew out of its blowhole numerous times. According to Benitez, who has been working at Rocking the Boat for 10 years, this is the first time a dolphin has appeared in the river.
“We have never seen anything like it,” said Sam Marquand, director of the environmental science program at Rocking the Boat.
According to Trevor Spradlin, a marine mammal biologist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in recent years a large amount of lone dolphins and dolphin corpses have washed ashore in Eastern coastal states such as New York and Virginia.
The Bronx River Alliance Facebook page has since been updated: “No dolphin sighting today, so we’re hoping the errant dolphin made its way back to its pod, and the ocean.”