Hear the secret lives of dolphins in New York Harbor

It’s an enigma. No one knows for sure why dolphins are seen more frequently and for longer periods in and around New York Harbor, the g...


It’s an enigma. No one knows for sure why dolphins are seen more frequently and for longer periods in and around New York Harbor, the giant estuary where salty ocean tides mix with fresh water from the Hudson River.

“We’ve had a ton of sightings,” said Maxine Montello, an official with the New York Maritime Rescue Center. “It’s a glory to see stronger populations but also a worry because there’s increased overlap with humans and shared resources,” she said, particularly during the summer months when more and more tourists and pleasure craft ply the bustling waters.

The dolphin revival around metropolitan New York – which has the most developed coastline in the country – stands in stark contrast to the grim periods of disease and soaring death rates that have periodically plagued the waters of the East Coast. In 2013, tons of dolphin carcasses washed ashore first in New Jersey, then in Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida, the winter home of mammals. Many bodies fell in the waves, badly deteriorated. The alleged killer was a deadly virus.

Now, like humans flocking to New York despite the apartment rental bidding wars, marine mammals seem to be enjoying the city’s crowded waters again. Possible explanations include improved habitat quality, warming water due to climate change, and recovery of menhaden stocks, experts say. Dolphins feast on schools of fish, eating up to 20 pounds a day.

New Yorkers spot dolphins in places such as the East River, which separates Manhattan from Brooklyn and Queens. A pair showed up in the waters off Greenpoint, Brooklyn, last year, drawing gasps from onlookers and scientists alike.

“It’s not normally there that we see them”, Howard C. Rosenbaumsenior researcher at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said WABC last year. The couple, he added, showed no signs of distress.

To better understand the rebound of dolphins and the threats to their populations, six scientists from the conservation society, including Dr. Rosenbaum, recently studied the behavior and hauntings of dolphins in and around New York Harbor. The team focused on bottlenose dolphins — the type famous for his wide smiles and energetic jumps. Highly intelligent creatures, they live in coastal waters and use sound waves to communicate and hunt food.

Scientists have discovered that bottlenose dolphins can emit a rapid series of clicks known as power supply hums that help them track their prey. From 2018 to 2020, the team installation underwater microphones and recorders at six locations off Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and New Jersey to listen to the distinctive sounds.

A sensor was placed near a man-made structure known as the Rockaway Reef, a viewing hotspot about two miles south of Rockaway Beach, Queens. Closer to Manhattan, in the Upper Bay off Brooklyn, another has settled in an area with heavy maritime traffic. The overall goal was to document when and where the dolphins were feeding.

The team found that predatory dolphin activity was highest in the Lower Bay off Staten Island, particularly near the entrance to New York Harbor’s Outer Harbor and the mouth. of the estuary, which stretches five miles between Sandy Hook, New Jersey and Breezy Point. , Queens. Lower levels were found at the Upper Bay site. The team reported that the hunt peaked from late summer through fall.

“To better manage potential human-wildlife conflicts,” the authors wrote earlier this month in a marine ecology journal, “more targeted research is needed on this understudied population.”

Sarah G. Trabuewho led the study and is a researcher at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said Underwater Ears have done “an excellent job of establishing a wealth of information about these animals, but we can see gaps that need to be filled. “, particularly in the search for possible links between human activity and foraging habits, she said.

Dr Rosenbaum said the population increase “is part of our new normal” and has increased the importance of acoustic research. “It’s a very powerful tool to learn more about bottlenose dolphins in our own backyard,” he said, adding that it would help establish “the most rigorous understanding of how to minimize harm. “.

Joe Reynoldsnaturalist writer and wildlife photographer, Noted an increase in dolphin sightings nearly five years ago on his New York Harbor blog. Among the factors behind their return, he considered the increasing abundance of marine life, especially the menhaden, to be the most important. Humans avoid and dolphins prefer oily fish, also known as bunker fish. experts credit the resurgence of fish to improved management of the East Coast fishery.

Mr Reynolds said pods of bottlenose dolphins were often seen feeding on large bunker schools in Sandy Hook Bay and Raritan Bay, and in the Atlantic Ocean near Jersey shore towns such as Sea Bright, Monmouth Beach and Long Branch.

“How could we tell the Dolphins were after the bunker?” He asked. “They weren’t alone. Crowds of hungry gulls, terns, cormorants and other seabirds also showed up.

Ms Montello of the New York Marine Rescue Center said an overlooked factor in recent sightings was the influx of humans seeking to escape the coronavirus pandemic by flocking to waterways, docks, piers, waterfront parks and New York’s fishing grounds, becoming accidental observers.

“We’re seeing more animals but also more public awareness,” Ms Montello said. She added that wildlife experts were increasingly concerned about accidental collisions.

“A lot of people tested their ability to drive a boat” during the pandemic, she noted. “It can be scary out there.”

Last year, Ms Montello said, the rescue center saw an increase in the number of dead dolphins and live strandings, adding that the reasons for the incidents often remained unclear. “More investigations are needed to understand what is going on,” she said, including necropsies and other detailed studies of affected animals and their aquatic environment.

“We haven’t seen a huge increase this year,” Ms. Montello noted. “But we are just entering the season.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Hear the secret lives of dolphins in New York Harbor
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