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
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
Summit News Service
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
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 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.
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
Area resident Judy Tait was taking her son,
Jonathan, to an orthodontist appointment when she noticed crowds gathered along
"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?"
'embarrassed', 'sad' after watching dolphins suffer
By TAMMY SCOTT-WALLACE
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
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
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
The creatures did not swim, but instead, fell
uncontrollably from side to side as they attempted to reach non-existent
"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
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
"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
"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
"This is so sad," she said
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.
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.
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
"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.