Dolphin stranded near San Francisco Airport


posted: 9 August 2016
by: Allison Weeks and Hermela Aregawi

A beached dolphin is stranded in mud near the San Francisco International Airport in Burlingame.

At 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday, responders said they were not able to find the dolphin after an extensive search. They said they will try again Wednesday morning based on tidal conditions.

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SFO’s airboat attempting to reach the beached dolphin

“This rare stranding of a Risso’s dolphin in San Francisco Bay presents an opportunity to learn more about this elusive species,” said Dr. Shawn Johnson, who is Director of Veterinary Science at The Marine Mammal Center. “The mud flats have made for a challenging rescue operation but our response team and partners are making a tremendous effort to locate this animal.”

The dolphin had been spotted as early as Saturday and was seen circling the area’s shallow waters several times that day before becoming stranded about 400 meters from shore on mudflats Tuesday morning, according to center officials.

The dolphin is across from the Marriott parking lot and is suspected to be dead.

The Marine Mammal Center received the report around 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Experts say it is a Risso’s dolphin which is a species that travels in pods and not usually seen in the Bay Area.

Because the rescue team has not been able to make contact with the dolphin, they do not know its condition. The mammal center is working with the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine an appropriate response plan, according to the mammal center.

Risso’s dolphins are an open water species and usually travel in pods, which are not known to frequent the San Francisco Bay.

Because the animal entered the Bay, presumably alone, mammal center officials believe it may be sick or perhaps just took a wrong turn.

The Center suspects the dolphin might be sick or took a wrong turn.

The Coast Guard, the Marine Mammal Center, the National Marine Fisheries Service and other organizations were working to rescue the dolphin.

The San Francisco Airport Fire Department is providing a boat for the rescue. While attempting to rescue the dolphin, the department had to go back and get another boat that can operate in shallower water.

A responder from the Center and three people from the airport fire department are using an airboat to save the dolphin by trying to find out its location and size.

“Unfortunately, the Risso’s dolphin has not moved or changed its position throughout the day on the soft mud,” says Dr. Cara Field, staff veterinarian at The Marine Mammal Center. “Since cetacean bodies are not designed to be on solid surfaces, it’s unlikely that the cetacean is still alive.”

Risso’s dolphins can grow more than 12 feet long and weigh up to 1,100 pounds. Additionally, they prefer warm, temperate and tropical water offshore habitats, mammal center officials said.

Throughout its 41-year history, the Marine Mammal Center has responded to 10 incidents involving Risso’s dolphins. This year alone, the center has already responded to 27 incidents involving cetaceans, a group of marine mammals that includes whales, dolphins and porpoises.

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