A small Newfoundland community has become fixated on the plight of six dolphins trapped by ice in its harbour.
Wayne Ledwell of the Whale Release and Strandings Group said heavy ice off Heart’s Delight has cut off the exit route for the white-beaked dolphins, leaving them stranded in a pool of open water.
“They won’t go through the ice. They’re staying well clear of it and they know exactly where it is and exactly what danger it is to them,” said Ledwell in an interview Wednesday.
“These are small animals of 300 or 400 pounds and they can’t navigate that ice. It will kill them if they get out into it.”
Ledwell said the pool had grown smaller overnight Monday as temperatures dropped and the water froze over, but a local resident helped break the ice with a speedboat.
He said dozens of residents have been flocking to the harbour this week, eager to check on the dolphins, which have been stuck since Sunday.
“These dolphins belong to this community now,” said Ledwell.
“People really want to get those dolphins out. They really want something to be done about it, and unfortunately we really can’t do anything right now.”
Wanda Worthman, who lives in the area, said the community of 650 people is worried about the dolphins’ well-being, considering they will remain trapped unless the winds shift and move the pack ice out of the harbour.
“It’s beautiful to watch them. They’re so graceful. It’s sad … and everyone here in the town is feeling the same thing,” said Worthman, who said she visits the dolphins two or three times a day.
“My husband, he leaves work every afternoon and goes and checks on them and every morning before he goes to work he goes down again.”
Worthman said the dolphins were making noises and appeared to be in good condition Wednesday. She said people have also been feeding them.
“My brother-in-law went out and got some shrimp and brought it over,” she said.
But, Ledwell said dolphins typically will only eat live food they caught themselves. He said they can last awhile without food, and there may be something to eat in the harbour.
“They’re not like us. They don’t have a regular breakfast, dinner and supper,” he said, noting that he’s seen dolphins trapped in a smaller pool for more than two weeks.
Ledwell said there’s a possibility that if the winds don’t change, the dolphins could be pushed further to shore and then they could attempt to catch them in stretchers and bring them by truck to a nearby community’s harbour that’s free of ice.
“But that wouldn’t be ideal for the dolphins,” he said. “These situations are very dynamic and they change all the time. There’s no template for how to handle it.”
Ledwell said the dolphins were part of a larger group of about 100 dolphins feeding in the bay in recent weeks, and this group happened to become trapped by heavy pack ice as it moved in.
On Tuesday, the Fisheries Department requested the help of a Canadian Coast Guard ship that was in the area for routine ice reconnaissance.
It says the ship attempted to go into the harbour, but it was determined attempts to shift the ice would be “very dangerous” for the dolphins and cause them additional stress.
The Canadian Press