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Gowanus Canal Dolphin

Injured dolphin dies in Gowanus Canal

The Brooklyn Paper

A male dolphin that was trapped in the notoriously filthy and toxic Gowanus Canal is dead.

The cetacean, which was spotted swimming in the canal at 9:30 am on Friday and appeared to have a bleeding dorsal fin, began bobbing up and down near the Union Street bridge between Bond and Nevins streets in the early afternoon after spending nine sludge-covered hours in the disgusting waterway.

The mammal was coming up for air every few seconds before it passed away at about 6 pm, breaking the hearts of the dozens of concerned onlookers who gathered in the freezing cold to catch a glimpse of the doomed creature from the banks of the canal and cheered whenever he would show his snout, letting him know he wasn’t alone at his time of death.

“I think he knew he was surrounded by people who wanted to help him,” said Aida Rodriguez of Carroll Gardens. “It gave him a bit of energy.”

Rodriguez, who claimed she wanted to jump into the frigid waterway to save the creature, could not hold back tears as she came to terms with what had happened.

“This is just terrible,” she said as she broke down in tears. “It’s heartbreaking.”

The exact cause of death is not known at this time.

The dolphin sighting made international headlines on Friday, and Brooklynites headed down to the federal Superfund site to see the six- to seven-foot long creature that weighed between 200 to 250 pounds swimming in a soupy, water-esque substance that is contains the germs that could give swimmers gonorrhea.

“It’s an incredible sight,” said Tiffany Collings, who left her Park Slope clothing store job to check out the dolphin. “You don’t usually see a lot of wildlife in the Gowanus Canal.”

Rescue workers had hoped that their finned friend would somehow make its way back out to sea once high tide came in, fearing that any human assistance before then would only make matters worse.

“An intervention on our part can be detrimental to the animal,” said Julika Wocial, a marine biologist from the Riverhead Foundation, the rescue organization that received a call from a citizen who spotted the dolphin at the entrance to corpse of a waterway near Hamilton Avenue. “It’s a very normal and standard procedure that we wait through more tide cycles before we attempt to do anything.”

The dolphin isn’t the first sea mammal to get caught — and die in — Brooklyn’s nautical purgatory.

In 2007, a baby minke whale, affectionately called “Sludgie,” was swimming in the canal after it was separated from its mother during a Nor’Easter. It died after apparently hitting some submerged rocks near an oil facility at the end of Clinton Street.

The Gowanus’ sister-filthy-inlet, Newtown Creek, also attracted a dolphin, nicknamed “Slimey,” in 2010. That dolphin is believed to have miraculously survived.

Today’s dolphin does not have a nickname, although a twitter account, @gowanusdolphin, had been created on its behalf.

That account has died along with the dolphin.

The dolphin sighting and death came a day after the federal government held two public meetings in Carroll Gardens and Red Hook to discuss its half-billion dollar plan to clean up the grotesque waterway that is, no more than ever, clearly no place for marine mammals.

The cleanup will commence after a two-year design phase, and will take at least until 2022 to complete, Environmental Protection Agency officials said.

People who spot large marine wildlife in the Gowanus Canal or Newtown Creek, are urged to call the Riverhead Foundation at (631) 369–9829.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at

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Reader Feedback

Jack Forrest from Australia says:
I cannot believe that this was allowed to happen, how the people of this city could watch this animal needlessly die.....Disgraceful and extremely disappointing that all the money and power that you have and no one could save this dolphin...
Jan. 25, 2013, 8:17 pm
Glenn from Park Slope says:
Maybe the Dolphin suffered a serious injury to the point where nothing could be done regardless of any aid that could have been rendered; though to be fair swimming in the canal certainly didnt help its chances.
Jan. 25, 2013, 9:56 pm
Joe from Bensonhurst says:
Such remarks from "Takinawa" are just plain stupid and not at all funny. Maybe he should be given the opportunity to sample a piece of the poor unfortunate, "toxic" animmal so he too can experience the last hours of desperation this dolphin experienced.
Jan. 26, 2013, 7:25 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Do gooders didn't want the dolphin to be touched, lest it be "traumatized."

Now, it is at peace.
Jan. 26, 2013, 9:23 am
Jan from Flatbush says:
This is disgusting. Obviously rescuers could EASILY have gotten in there to help the dolphin. Has anyone every heard of a BOAT???? Police said their "hands are tied"??? What the ...??? Dolphins are highly intelligent animals. Where were the Aquarium people, with their rescue equipment. This is an outrage. The powers that be that did NOT react should be charged under the law.
Jan. 26, 2013, 9:50 am
Jan from Flatbush says:
This is disgusting. Obviously rescuers could EASILY have gotten in there to help the dolphin. Has anyone every heard of a BOAT???? Police said their "hands are tied"??? What the ...??? Dolphins are highly intelligent animals. Where were the Aquarium people, with their rescue equipment. This is an outrage. The powers that be that did NOT react should be charged under the law.
Jan. 26, 2013, 9:50 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Sorry Jan - EXPERTS! said 'don't touch the dolphin.'

These are EXPERTS.

What would we do without EXPERTS!?
Jan. 26, 2013, 11:29 am
kelly from bucks PA says:
How is it that a man got close enough to pet the dolphin yet the authorities could not "get to him easily". Sparing the dolphin additional stress by intervening does not make sense to me!!! Hmmm let me see, remove the dolphin from the toliet OR let him gasp for air the whole day and hope the high tide wisks him away? Come on, really? Where were all the organizations that should have stepped in to take action!!! Not a proud New Yorker on this day....
Jan. 26, 2013, 11:49 am
old time brooklyn from slope says:
The canal is a polluted, toxic cesspool. the safety of people trumps a dolpfin or any annimal period. there is a lot more to worry about ala kids dying every day of starvation, war and abuse. it is a shame the poor thing died (though it would surely have died from exposure to the canal).
Jan. 26, 2013, 12:32 pm
kelly from buck pa says:
Old time brooklyn
I hope everyone would agree with you, there are far more important and horrific things to worry about in this world. You cant compare the welfare and safety of a child to a fish, but it doenst mean you ignore the fish. Im sorry but I believe this could have been avoided without harming a human being in the process = hazmat gear. Smoking will kill you first. So many nightmares to worry about, why not do some good where you can?
Jan. 26, 2013, 12:52 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
kelly - a dolphin is not a fish.
Jan. 26, 2013, 1:20 pm
kelly from pa says:
Oh for hevens sake :) but youre right again, I know its a marine mammal and not a "fish" just trying to make a point thats all.
Jan. 26, 2013, 1:35 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
ty kelly :)
Jan. 26, 2013, 2:34 pm
Gene from Windsor Terrace says:
I feel bad for the Dolphin but the comment that the "Powers that be should be charged" is at best a little over the top and at worst downright ludicrous. The Police role there is limited to crowd control nothing more. Marine mammal rescue is not within their qualifications as law enforcement officers. They are there merely to maintain law and order; as for the Marine Experts who were present, they were in a better position to determine whether anything could be done for the dolphin. I gather from the death of the animal, there wasn't much that could be done
Jan. 26, 2013, 4:05 pm
TGGary from Oakland Gardens,Queens says:
I thought the dolphin should have been rescued from the water and transported to the Atlantic, where it would have cleaned off and out well, and had a good chance to survive...the injury to the dolphin's fin notwithstanding, I don't understand why any group would wait until the tide came in to that cesspool to see if the dolphin could find its way out. Bad call.
Jan. 26, 2013, 5:09 pm
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
In other words, Brooklyn hipsters are no smarter than your average dolphin.

Now if only we can teach spider monkeys to pour a flower into latter foam....
Jan. 26, 2013, 8:17 pm
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
'scuse me...LATTE foam.
Jan. 26, 2013, 8:18 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Pat, you can teach a monkey to ride a tricycle and smoke a cigar, even money says you can teach one to do the foam.

Watch - when the weather warms up they will be placing memorials along the canal for Mahi-Mahi, the dolphin who couldn't.
Jan. 27, 2013, 9:15 am
pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
Yellow Hook-

Living in the 'burbs, not a day goes by when I don't see some maudlin,makeshift idiotic pop-up memorial on the highway.

Please tell - what use does a deceased person have for stuffed animals? I'd leave a Target gift card in case said person needs to buy something in the afterlife - like socks. Or a Flowbee.

Ditto for the rear window decals. Do you really think that absolute strangers care? Since when did grieving become a participation sport?
Jan. 27, 2013, 12:17 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Pat I

Something to believe in for people with no beliefs.

Or the believers in a religion with no "thou shalt nots."
Jan. 27, 2013, 5:21 pm
Stephen from PLG says:
When will those bottlenosed bastards learn to stay out of our fetid waterways?
Jan. 27, 2013, 6:37 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
Marine experts were on the scene and made a qualified determination, but some ladies who probably owns cats thinks that they all know better.
Jan. 27, 2013, 7:19 pm
Jack from brooklyn says:
To old time Brooklyn,
Your comments from the dolphin tothe homeless shelter to all your comments there just plain old time .
Jan. 27, 2013, 8:33 pm
stacey from miami says:
What if a child fell in this sludge? I suppose no one would attempt to help the child either?
Jan. 28, 2013, 10:36 am
frank from furter says:

without comment
Jan. 28, 2013, 12:18 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
Jack from brooklyn says:

To old time Brooklyn,
Your comments from the dolphin tothe homeless shelter to all your comments there just plain old time .

bite me shmekela

mazel tove
Jan. 30, 2013, 9:15 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
stacey from miami says:

What if a child fell in this sludge? I suppose no one would attempt to help the child either?

well the satmar would say gods will
some would say a paycheck 0 low yes
otherwise people are more important than annimals

mazel tov
Jan. 30, 2013, 9:17 pm
Vangeline from Carroll Gardens says:
The Gowanus canal is man made, and its high level of toxicity and pollution is due to us.
We need to have a protocol in place for rapid rescue to help these large mammals swim back to the bay when they get trapped. No large mammal should ever die trapped in the Gowanus canal. We have a moral responsibility to have a protocol of rapid rescue in place, and we need our local officials to explore every option to prevent future deaths, How can the Riverhead Foundation say in the same breath that the water was not toxic enough to kill the dolphin but too dangerously polluted for human beings to go in? I think they are covering their bad decision.
I started a petition on" Rapid rescue of dolphins and whales in Gowanus canal".
150 people have already signed.
Hundreds of people are STILL outraged and we need to do something.
Jan. 31, 2013, 12:44 am
Vangeline from Carroll Gardens says:
Here is my petition to prevent more dolphins and whales from needlessly dying in the very polluted Gowanus canal:
Please sign if you would like your voice to be heard by elected officials.
Jan. 31, 2013, 12:47 am
old time brookln from slope says:
an electric fence would work as well
Jan. 31, 2013, 10:02 pm
Ted Goldstein from Flushing says:
Twice in the last 15 years two small pods of whales have been saved from certain death in prematurely frozen arctic waters through the efforts of concerned humans. In Brooklyn, one small dolphin stands 0 chance of survival because no one can figure out what to do or get help of any kind. The fact that it might have died anyway doe not mitigate the lack of action that is a hallmark of this sad story.
To echo fellow readers, I too am sure that the toxic brew that goes by the name of the Gowanus Canal may have been the final nail in this poor Cetaceans coffin.
Feb. 4, 2013, 8:35 am

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