An aquarium statement says the dolphin named D.J. (not pictured) was found dead at the bottom of a dolphin tank early Saturday. He was age 15.
It's been 33 years since Dolphin 56 was branded at the Jersey shore and every summer since that day in 1979, the marine mammal has made it's way from Florida up the coast to New Jersey. This summer, however, is different.
There's no sign of Dolphin 56, reports the Press of Atlantic City.
“He likes to go to New Jersey all the time in the summers,” Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine told the Press. “He’d go back every year in early summer or late spring.”
Now, Schoelkopf and many others are hoping to catch a glipse of the beloved bottlenose dolphin in the Atlantic before summer's end.
The last reported sighting of Dolphin 56 was in July 2011 off the coast of Wales, according to the Press, leaving many fearing that the 45-year-old dolphin is dead.
"We're concerned he reached the end of his lifetime," Schoelkopf told the Press of AC.
Dolphin 56, Schoelkopf says, has already exceeded the average lifespan of dolphins of his kind.
So for now, all Schoelkopf, shore residents and visitors can do is hope to see their friend before the end of summer.
"It is not a good sign that no one on the East Coast has seen him yet, but I will not give up hope," Sea Isle resident Kathy Hunter told the paper.