Volunteer firefighters Kirk Steeves, left, and Troy Boomer help release two Atlantic white-sided dolphins into the channel of the Petitcodiac River in Riverview yesterday. Rescuers pulled four of the dolphins out of the mudchoked river after they were trapped by a failing tide. (Summit News Service Photo)

Four dolphins pulled from river but one dies in rescue effort
CHOKED WITH MUD: Rescue workers spent hours trying to calm the distraught mammals in the Petitcodiac River while they waited for the tide to come in.

Summit News Service
October 2/2001

   MONCTON - Rescuers pulled four Atlantic white-sided dolphins out of the mud-choked Petitcodiac River yesterday after they were trapped by a falling tide - but one died in the rescue effort.
    The others were loaded into pickup trucks and released into the Northumberland Strait.
   Firefighters waded into the mud to keep the dolphins cool and upright while waiting for the tide to rise but, when it arrived, the dolphins got stuck again.
    Bruce Dougan, of the Magnetic Hill Zoo, - said the dolphins likely chased a school of fish up the river before becoming trapped in the waterway, which has become almost completely filled by silt since a causeway between Moncton and Riverview was built in the late 1960s, restricting water flow.
   Beginning around 8 a.m. and for the seven hours that followed, thousands of people gathered to watch as rescuers with the Riverview Fire Department attempted to free the three dolphins from the mud flats of the nearly dry river. A fourth mammal had been separated from its pod and rested alone to the east.
   As rescuers offered tender-loving care to the obviously distraught mammals, Mr. Dougan explained it was important the dolphins be calmed to relieve their anxiety before attempting to make their way against the incoming tide.
    "They are really stressed right now," he said. "They will be fine because of the cool temperatures; now they just need to relax and get into clean, fresh salt water. "
   Troy Boomers a member of the fire department's volunteer dive team, was scheduled to write a college test when the call came for his assistance.
   He was one of the men who sat in the shallow water with a dolphin.
   He described his initial contact with the first dolphin rescued as breathtaking.
   "As soon as I poured water on him, he looked up at me and I came eye-to-eye with him. The eyes almost seemed human," Mr. Boomer said.
   "Dolphins are very intelligent and by him relaxing some it seemed that he knew we were there to help, but the distress he was feeling was obvious.
   Area resident Judy Tait was taking her son, Jonathan, to an orthodontist appointment when she noticed crowds gathered along the banks.
    "I've seen moose and seals out there, but never anything like this," she said.
   "This is a great example why this river should be more of a priority with our government. This river is choking, what better proof is there than this?"

White-sided Dolphins swimming free! The way it was ment to be!

Residents 'embarrassed', 'sad' after watching dolphins suffer

Summit News Service
October 3/2001

    MONCTON - The debate has long been a heated one when it comes to the free flow of the Petitcodiac River, but after watching four dolphins struggle to live Monday, more people are taking notice.
   Those who have ignored the idea that the river is choking were hit hard yesterday when they heard about the dolphins stuck in the mud and sediment for hours.
   Some residents felt embarrassed while watching the situation unfold over about eight hours, while others admitted they felt guilty that they haven't paid enough attention to the river's condition.
   Among the dozens of people interviewed along the riverbank, all said the gates to the Petitcodiac River causeway. should be open often to allow the river to run naturally. Most people knew little more about the debate than that. Although, a few voiced their frustration that most of those opposed to the opening are more concerned about real estate prices than life.
   A bitterness seemed to come over observers, who sat for hours at a time as fire fighters spent their day calming and attempting to free the traumatized mammals. The majority of witnesses had never seen a dolphin, and all agreed this was the worse way to witness one.
   The creatures did not swim, but instead, fell uncontrollably from side to side as they attempted to reach non-existent water.
   "My God, such a beautiful animal dying with no dignity," Moncton resident Carol Amos said, shaken from the event. "I always imagined swimming with the dolphins, and to see them so vulnerable breaks my heart. "
   It wasn't the first time unusual wildlife made its way into the river looking for food only to find themselves beached, but this was the most extreme case. In the past nature worked its course after the tide came in and the animals - from seals to porpoises - swam to safer waters.
   That was not the case on Monday because the shallow water simply wasn't enough for the dolphins to put their fins to use. One of the four Atlantic WhiteSided Dolphins died during rescue efforts.
   "This should be a sad day for everyone," said Katherine Cameron, of Riverview, while holding her daughter Amanda close early Monday morning. "Any responsible adult should be affected by this.
   "I can't believe some people want to keep a lake for decorative purposes while beautiful creatures like this suffer. Those gates should be opened once and for all. "
   Amanda felt much the same way and has little faith that her government will help ensure the river and its animals will be safe.
   "No matter what anyone says, the gates won't be opened and these dolphins have to pay for that.
   "This is so sad," she said quietly.
   Danielle LeBlanc, of the Petitcodiac Riverkeepers, said once again the Petitcodiac River has received national attention for an unflattering reason.
    "We got attention for toxic leachate going into the river and then when the causeway caused the extinction of the first clam species known to Canada a few years back, now this," he said. "It's extremely frustrating to have a mandate to take care of the river and see it in such a sorry state.
   "Things like this aren't good for the region. It definitely looks bad on all of us. "
   He is hopeful some good comes of the devastating events of Monday which occurred before thousands of people.
   "It was a horrible thing for people to be watching," he said. "Dolphins are a very special species, it's an exciting thing to see them in Moncton but not in that way.
    "All of these creatures could have perished here because of the river situation. It's embarrassing, it's a shame," he added. "I just hope that those people with strong views that the gates shouldn't be opened stop and realize that the situation that occurred Monday will happen again, and likely in a more serious way. Until the gates are opened or a bridge is installed for all or part of the causeway, then the implications will continue to be devastating.
    "If it wasn't for that causeway, Moncton would be the ecotourism centre of Canada. Hundreds of thousands of people would come here to see it. "
   Ironically, while the dolphins were stranded in the muddy river bed, Federal Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal made an offer to provincial environment minister Kim Jardine to pay for two-thirds of an environmental impact assessment on replacing part of the Petitcodiac River Causeway with a bridge if the province makes a commitment to submit a proposal for a replacement bridge.
    Ms. Jardine is in the process of presenting the facts to provincial cabinet ministers before a decision on the offer is made.