Law enforcement reviewing flipper flounder

A common dolphin is seen stranded on a mud flat in the Mill River Ion Friday in this screen grab taken from a video taken by Inge Berge. The dolphin, an adult male, according to NOAA, died a short time later.

NOAA's Federal Office of Law Enforcement is reviewing an incident in which a common dolphin died in Gloucester. 

The dolphin, an adult male, died after making its way to the end of the Mill River at the bridge on Washington Street on Friday, Jan. 15. The Mill River is a tidal estuary located between Wheeler’s Point and Riverdale, off Hodgkins Street, that leads to the Annisquam River.  

The federal review comes after two people — a man and a woman not associated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — made their way out into the water to assist the dolphin. The man pulled on the dolphin’s tale, trying to bring it to deeper water as the woman walked toward them. 

Their efforts, however, proved unsuccessful as the dolphin died in the waters at Mill River that afternoon.

While there is controversy bubbling on social media about whether or not the cause of death was due to the bystanders' interference, NOAA Public Affairs Officer Jennifer Goebel told the Times on Tuesday that that NOAA doesn’t think the statement "died due to human intervention by untrained bystanders,"  which was published on Gloucester Shellfish Constable's Facebook page “is quite right.”

“The dolphin was dying, and the people who intervened inflicted unnecessary additional stress on the dolphin, but it’s not clear that the dolphin died ‘due to human intervention',” Goebel wrote in the email. 

This was the second dolphin sighting in two months, as a young bottlenose dolphin surprised passer-byers on Washington Street bridge on Dec. 31.However, the most recent sighting ended in jeers rather than cheers as spectators wanted someone — anyone —to help assist the animal in distress.

"Watching a beautiful wild animal die is sad and painful for all of us, especially the stranding responders who have trained and devoted their careers to helping these animals," NOAA Fisheries New England/Mid-Atlantic posted on its Facebook page a day after the incident. "Our responders knew that there was nothing they could do to help the dolphin, and the best course of action was to let the animal pass on its own. If any intervention would have helped, our responders would have stepped in, but they could tell that the kindest thing to do for this animal was to let it die peacefully." 

Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@gloucestertimes.com.

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