Is Hollywood filming a remake of “Flipper” in the Newtown Creek?
It certainly looks that way now that two dolphins have been sighted in and near the filthy waterway — a natural disaster that has grabbed the attention of local biologists, teachers and even the U.S. Coast Guard!
The most-recent sighting was on Wednesday morning, when Harbor School teacher Ann Fraioli was taking her class on a tour of the toxic waterway.
“We spotted a dorsal fin in the distance — sure enough, it was a dolphin making its way up the creek,” Fraioli said. “We tried to get him to turn around, but, alas, he was headed up the creek into the muck.”
Any marine biologist worth her weight in oysters knows that a swim into a disgustingly polluted waterway like this can be deadly — just think about poor “Sludgie” the whale, the Minke who died in the Gowanus Canal in 2007.
That’s why the U.S. Coast Guard and Riverhead Foundation biologists will monitor sightings closely to make sure the wildlife isn’t disoriented or distressed, said Riverhead Foundation Executive Director Rob DiGiovanni. If there are signs that the dolphin — which we’ve appropriately named “Slimey” (but respectfully!) — is confused or sickly, the foundation will consider a rescue mission, he added.
“But we’re not too concerned at this point — from the pictures, it looks to be a common dolphin that’s not distressed,” DiGiovanni said. “It’s unusual to see it in Newtown Creek, but not odd. It’s a free-ranging animal, so it’s going to move around a lot.”
The Coast Guard also got reports that another common dolphin was spotted on Tuesday in the East River — headed straight for Newtown Creek (and they say these are intelligent animals!). Officials believe that this dolphin is not the same as the one that has been sighted in the creek.
Despite a reputation for being social creatures, dolphins should not interact with humans. DiGiovanni warned people to stay at least 50 yards away, as dolphins can become stressed easily.
People who spot large marine wildlife in the Newtown Creek, are urged to call the Riverhead Foundation at (631) 369-9829.