Jersey Shore tourists warned not to harass marine mammals
Shore tourists are likely to observe an occasional dolphin or sea turtle in the water at this time of the year. The messages from an expert is "look, but don't touch."
Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, says they just released seven seals back to the ocean.
"Seals right now are winding down, they are heading north for cooler water."
He says dolphins are giving birth about now.
"There are a lot of newborn dolphins in the water. You get to see them with their mothers."
And Schoelkopf says once the water gets a little bit warmer, we will start to see sea turtles start to come up as well.
"As summer comes around, we start seeing dolphins and sea turtles, and an occasional whale will be spotted offshore."
Schoelkopf says give the dolphins and other marine life their space.
"Just stay away from them. The bottlenose dolphins are giving birth right now, and they are very, very protective of their infants. So if anybody went out, say on a paddle board or in a boat and decided to swim with them and jump in, there is a good chance that the mother is going to hit them with her tail, and could break an arm or a leg — or actually kill a person, if they wanted to."
Unfortunately, Schoelkopf concedes that we will always have that 1 percent that insist on getting really close with them.
"They go up with their boats. A word of caution to those people is that they also have the National Marine Fisheries Service, federal agents out there, and they are recording that.
And if people did see that type of harassment, the simple thing is to take out your iPhone, take a photo of the boat, showing the boat and hull number on it, give us a call, and we will hand it in to Fisheries and report it as a harassment case."
If you see a mammal in distress, even "if you are not sure about it, give us a call. Try to get a photo so that we can ID the species. Just because they see them in the water does not mean that there is something wrong with them. They could be feeding inshore."
The phone number for the Marine Mammal Stranding Center is 609 266 0538.
Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at Joe.Cutter@townsquaremedia.com