Let's assume the Seal Cove dolphins are free, shall we?
Would the experts put a sock in it:
No sooner had the townsfolk of Seal Cove, Newfoundland, cut a path through ice Thursday to free three white-beaked dolphins trapped by ice since the weekend, a marine mammal expert threw cold water on the story. Provincial government whale expert Wayne Ledwell told reporters: "In my opinion, the chances for survival would be slim."
Mr. Ledwell may be right; the stress may have been too much for the dolphins. Still, the townsfolk who were out in that ice in that small boat cutting the ice with the propeller blades saw the dolphins swim off in open water. Others later saw three dolphins swimming in ice-free waters at the mouth of the cove. Mr. Ledwell didn't mean any harm, I'm sure. But he didn't risk life and limb like those rescuers. He sat in Seal Cove last week while his bosses in the provincial government, as well as Canadian officials, said there was nothing to be done.
I am hardly an expert like Mr. Ledwell. But I have spent my entire career as a journalist listening to the "experts" telling people, like those in Seal Cove, what could and couldn't be done. In my career, they have been wrong more times than they were right and, coincidentally, often about marine issues, such as where East Coast lobster go to spawn.
Unfortunately, I have seen dolphins put under enormous stress from human beings motivated by profit - and survive. Sadly. I covered the story in 2001 of seven dolphins who were caught in the Pacific, transported across the Baja Penisula and kept in shallow ocean pens in the tourist town of La Paz, Mexico. They arrived in La Paz bloodied and battered from the trip in crates in the back of pick-up trucks like fish for market. One died soon after arrival, however the rest lived to be battered around in the La Paz enclosure during a 2003 hurricane. Then, three more died. The "experts" looking after them left them in shallow pens in a hurricane zone. The remaining three were, presumably, sent to "swim with dolphins" programs, despite huge efforts to rehabilitate them to the sea, beginning as soon as they were captured. This story still bothers me terribly. It would have been better had the original seven died before reaching La Paz. However, it does show these mammals can endure stress.
There's enough bad news these days and, in this case, every reason to believe these dolphins survived. Better that Mr. Ledwell keep his grim prognosis to himself. Let's leave the story with the image of free dolphins, courageous townsfolk and lessons learned in Seal Cove. Perhaps next time, people won't wait for the experts to fiddle around for four or five days before taking matters into their own hands.