Dolphins Return to NJ River, Fate Uncertain

A group of four dolphins have been sighted several times in the Navesink River

A group of four dolphins have been spotted in New Jersey's Navesink River -- the same river that turned into a graveyard for other dolphins several years ago.

In the summer of 2008, a group of about a dozen dolphins started appearing in the river after finding summer fish to feed on. And just as back then, this summer's group appears to be finding their meals in the Navesink. 
"My guess would be there's a ton of bait in the water, bunker, some small red snappers in there," Mike Pawlikowski of the Oceanic Marina told NBC 4 New York on the marina's boat in the middle of the river. 
The four dolphins were first spotted Friday, then again over the weekend, as first reported by the Red Bank Green newspaper. 
Then the sightings seemed to end -- at least until Tuesday, when boaters reported sightings west of the Oceanic Bridge between Rumson and Middletown. 
Just a handful of boaters had spied the mammals. Staten Island's Brittany Regan was one of them. 
"I freaked out," said Regan, because she thought she was looking at sharks.
She wasn't, and for now, the dolphins are being welcomed back to the tidal river. 
Remembering four years ago, the Oceanic Marina's Barbara Foley recalled going out into the river to "just sit there and wait for them. It was a very peaceful and beautiful feeling."
By early fall of 2008, there were signs of stress among the group as their fish supplies swam out to sea. 
The dolphins refused to leave, and reports of dead dolphins washing ashore surfaced week after week.
Many wanted to mount a rescue effort to drive or lead them out to sea, but NOAA Fisheries Service refused permission. 
While this year's group of dolphins may face a similar fate later on, NOAA insists the same policy will be followed. 
"It makes sense to let nature do its thing," NOAA Spokeswoman Maggie Mooney-Seus told NBC 4 New York. 
Dolphin are not an endangered species.
Just a few miles off Sandy Hook, fisherman Peter Grandich of Freehold, N.J. said he has seen an "unbelievable" amount of dolphin. 
Speculating that the warming climate may be partly responsible, Grandich said, "I've never seen this many, it's almost like being in Florida."
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