Posted by: The ocean update | November 11, 2015

Coasties ‘devastated’ over death of much-loved lone dolphin found tangled in rope at Empire Bay (Australia)

Central Coast dolphin drama

Central Coast dolphin drama

November 11th, 2015 (Geraldine Cardozo). SHE delighted ferry commuters, fishermen, boaties and tourists with her friendly antics.

But now the Central Coast is mourning the loss of its very own ‘Flipper’, after the popular lone dolphin was found dead at Empire Bay.

“I’m devastated. She would nudge my boat at 3am every morning to wake me up so she could head out with me,” said Empire Bay oyster farmer Warren Harvey.

“She’s been playing with us for a couple of years and would nudge the punt and sometimes get the propeller in her teeth and turn it to get us going,” he said.

Wiping away tears, Mr Harvey was one of a team of local fishermen and marine rescuers who helped retrieved the body of the beloved dolphin — who they dubbed ‘elusive’ — on Wednesday morning.

The juvenile marine mammal had been reported missing after it was spotted entangled in a rope on Sunday morning.

“After she was cut loose, on Sunday we didn’t see her so assumed she had just swam off,” he said. “It is such a big tragedy.”

On Monday, volunteers from the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA) put out an alert for Coasties to be on the lookout for the dolphin, with fears for her wellbeing.

But the following night, two jetski riders spotted the dolphin with rope tangled around its tail floating on the water.

Empire Bay resident Jo Hillman then called ORRCA with the terrible news.

“We used to sit out and watch her all the time — she was part of Empire Bay. She was our pet in the water and I was just a mess when we found out she was dead,” she said.

ORCCA volunteers and divers worked with National Parks and Wildlife Service personnel, local oyster farmers and Central Coast Ferries skipper Daniel Rond to cut the dolphin free and bring her to shore.

The much-loved marine mammal often hitched a ride on the bow waves of the Central Coast Ferries vessels — to the delight of passengers and skipper Mr Rond.

“Everyone is devastated. We had been looking for her after we heard she was missing and a lot of our regulars were visibly upset when they heard the news,” he said.

The body of the dolphin was measured and weighed by ORRCA before being taken away by NPWS.

Dolphin experts have described the death as a “horrendous outcome”.

“For any young dolphin to die is distressing, and we have been monitoring the movements of this particular lone dolphin around Brisbane Water for nearly two years,” ORRCA spokeswoman Shona Lorigan said.

She said the intelligent creature’s curious nature and lack of family may have led to its demise.

“When they are not in a pod or with family lone dolphins will seek out human interaction, they become less inhibited and often lose their wild dolphin caution,” she said.

“We know she liked to grab anchor ropes in her mouth and pull and play with them,” she said. “Unfortunately this also means they can get tangled up.”

Mrs Lorigan thanked the local community for their help in reporting sightings of the dolphin and recording videos.

ORCCA President Ronny Ling said he had a “gut feeling” something was wrong with the dolphin after it went missing on Sunday.

“This is especially distressing coming in the wake of the successful rescue of a baby humpback whale caught in shark nets at Norah Head last week,” he said.

“We have a win, then we lose,” he said.

It is believed the dolphin is the same one snapped by a Bensville electrician Dennis Grilk in April.

He said it was a case of ‘being in the right place at the right time”, when he snapped amazing shots of the playful Brisbane Water dolphin leaping out of the water while photographing his son racing.

“I was out on the end of the marina near Gosford Sailing Club taking pictures of my son when I heard the dolphin come up next to me,” Mr Grilk said.

“I’ve seen it a few times in the water but never jumping and playing around like this.

“The next thing, I heard a huge splash and the dolphin leapt four times out of the water, about 20m away from me. It was having a great time and was looking straight at me.”

Mr Grilk said he grabbed the camera and had no idea until later he had got the shot.

“I was pumped. I didn’t think I had a hope of getting a decent shot, ”he said.

Anyone who spots a marine animal in distress is urged to call ORRCA-s 24-hour hotline on 9415 3333.

The dolphin loved to play up for the camera. Here she was snapped by electrician and amateur photographer Dennis Grilk from Gosford Sailing Club in April. Picture : Dennis Grilk

The dolphin loved to play up for the camera. Here she was snapped by electrician and amateur photographer Dennis Grilk from Gosford Sailing Club in April. Picture : Dennis Grilk

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