Dolphins die after being trapped in ice off Newfoundland

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CAPE RAY - There’s a sad ending for the story about a pod of dolphins trapped by ice off the coast of western Newfoundland.

Bert Osmond took these photos of dolphins trapped in ice north of Cape Ray, in western Newfoundland. 

Between 30 and 40 white-beaked dolphins have died near Cape Ray, according to Wayne Ledwell of Whale Release and Strandings Newfoundland and Labrador.

“There was pack ice that forced them close to land, and what happens then is the conditions were pretty severe out there as far as wind, and eventually they succumbed to the stress of being in the situation they were in,” said Ledwell. “They panicked and drowned.”

Commonly referred to as porpoises in this province, the white-beaked dolphins were spotted Sunday close to an area known locally as Northwest Cove. Ledwell said his group was not contacted about the situation until Sunday evening and could not respond to assess the situation until Monday morning.

“It’s a sad event,” he said, noting his group has received calls from foreign countries — Spain, England, Australia, the United States — inquiring about the welfare of the dolphins.

Given conditions in the area, the best option for rescuing the dolphins would have been to remove them from the water and transport the dolphins by skidoo to open water — the area in question is reportedly inaccessible by vehicle at the moment. 

“These are extremely difficult situations to do anything with. You’re walking around on ice that’s moving with cold water and cold temperatures,” said Ledwell, noting the dolphins would likely weigh 500-600 pounds each.

 As a species, white-beaked dolphins are doing well in Newfoundland and Labrador and can be spotted year-round according to Ledwell. Given the amount of pack ice building up in coastal waters this winter, he recommends people keep an eye out for trapped marine mammals.

As for the dolphins near Cape Ray, Ledwell expects nature will take care of the carcasses as they sink into the water.

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Cape Ray, Northwest Cove Spain England Australia United States

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  • Rod Ruth
    March 18, 2014 - 11:56

    Unbelievable how people can just sit and watch them die with there hands in their pockets, and nothing but excuses why they can't help. With today's capabilities, I'm sure something could have quickly been figured out. They should all be ashamed of themselves just watching them die without even trying to lift a finger.