Dolphin Rescue Event - A Good Day Herding Dolphins

Hi Everyone,

As promised, I am catching you up on the dolphin rescue efforts. The photos below were taken last week in the heat of the ongoing rescues. On this particular day it was snowing hard on Cape Cod so please forgive the snow effects on the photos.

On this day, we received a report of one live dolphin in Wellfleet Harbor. After doing a search of the harbor we found that there were actually five dolphins. With an incoming tide on our side, it was the perfect time to herd these animals to the safety of deep water.

The photo below shows three of the five dolphins swimming together.

Brian Sharp (with vessel) and Charles (CT) Harry (in truck) from the International
Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) launch the rescue inflatable.

The first order of business was to bring the dolphins together. A group of three appeared to be staying together however two others were swimming randomly apart from the group.

Three dolphins swim in formation in the photo on left. On the right, a lone dolphin passes a desolate beach.

Brian and CT maneuver the inflatable carefully and skillfully during the herding. The idea is to keep the boat between the beach and the dolphins.

In addition to using the boat to block the beach, acoustic deterrents are sometimes used. In the photo below you can see a rope hanging (just forward of the center area of the boat) leading up to Brian's hand. You can see just a little of the acoustic device, called a pinger, dangling in the water. Brian (in the front of the inflatable) raises and lowers the acoustic device based on his behavioral observations of the dolphins.

Whenever there are boat operations underway spotters are used for added safety. In this case the boat was so close to shore we had a good visual on the vessel team, despite the steady snow fall.

An IFAW volunteer observes the herding activities.

As the boat team was increasingly successful in herding the dolphins to deeper water we turned to binoculars to monitor their safety and progress. We also had radio and cell phone contact with them throughout the operation.

In the photo below Julika Wocial, a biologist from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation (RFMRP) on Long Island, keeps a visual on the vessel team as they progress from the shoreline.

Brian and CT returning to shore after a successful herding effort. They guided the dolphins
out of the harbor and into deeper water. The dolphins were last seen heading out to sea.

Volunteers and staff from the New England Aquarium, IFAW, Marine Mammals of Maine, and the
RFMRP watch and wait as the boat team returns to the dock.

This event was exhausting on the IFAW staff and all of us who came in to help them. The IFAW staff certainly took the brunt of the response. If a picture really is worth a thousand words then the photo below gives an extensive description of the exhaustion of the rescuers involved in this massive effort.

CT Harry, a marine biologist with IFAW nearly falls asleep while listening to his messages after a long day of herding dolphins on the water - I love this picture, it really does say it all!


It's been an extraordinary dolphin stranding season on Cape Cod. Learn more about this season's rescue efforts here.

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