The Department of Fisheries and Oceans reports that all but three of the white-beaked dolphins trapped by ice near Cape Ray have died as of Monday morning, and the outlook for their survival is grim.
© Bert Osmond photo
Bert Osmond took these photos of dolphins trapped in ice north of Cape Ray.
In a statement released to media, DFO said the marine mammals still alive were “in extremely poor condition” and that high winds creating white-out conditions were not helping matters.
According to Wayne Ledwell of Whale Release and Strandings Newfoundland and Labrador, there were an estimated 30-40 dolphins trapped in the ice, each of them weighing between 500-600 pounds. He reported the area in question is only reachable by snowmobile.
DFO said the geography of the Cape Ray area has created a problem for whales and dolphins in the past. Six blue whales were driven ashore by ice in 1987.
DFO fishery officers were still monitoring the situation Monday. However, DFO suggested it would be unwise to attempt a rescue, as doing so would pose a significant safety risk.
“If DFO determines that a trained professional should attempt to assist a stranded marine animal, it is always undertaken with the utmost caution and with a full understanding of how the animals may respond when under stress,” it said in the statement. “Personal safety is always the first priority.”
Marine mammals trapped by ice off coast of Western Newfoundland
There’s a sad ending for the story a pod of dolphins trapped by ice off the coast of western Newfoundland.
Between 30 and 40 white-beaked dolphins have died near Cape Ray, according to Wayne Ledwell of Whale Release and Strandings Newfoundland and Labrador.
“There was pack ice that forced them close to land, and what happens then is the conditions were pretty severe out there as far as wind, and eventually they succumbed to the stress of being in the situation they were in,” said Ledwell. “They panicked and drowned.”
Commonly referred to as porpoises in this province, the white-beaked dolphins were spotted Sunday close to an area known locally as Northwest Cove. Ledwell said his group was not contacted about the situation until Sunday evening and could not respond to assess the situation until Monday morning.
“It’s a sad event,” he said, noting his group has received calls from foreign countries — Spain, England, Australia, the United States — inquiring about the welfare of the dolphins.
Given conditions in the area, the best option for rescuing the dolphins would have been to remove them from the water and transport the dolphins by skidoo to open water — the area in question is reportedly inaccessible by vehicle at the moment.
“These are extremely difficult situations to do anything with. You’re walking around on ice that’s moving with cold water and cold temperatures,” said Ledwell, noting the dolphins would likely weigh 500-600 pounds each.
As a species, white-beaked dolphins are doing well in Newfoundland and Labrador and can be spotted year-round according to Ledwell. Given the amount of pack ice building up in coastal waters this winter, he recommends people keep an eye out for trapped marine mammals.
As for the dolphins near Cape Ray, Ledwell expects nature will take care of the carcasses as they sink into the water.
— With files from The Gulf News