Walls of ice closing in on trapped dolphins

Walls of ice closing in on trapped dolphins »Play Video
Dolphins swim behind drifting pack ice at Seal Cove, a small town in western Newfoundland, Canada on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009. (AP Photo/Nor'wester via The Canadian Press, Pam Snow)
SEAL COVE, Newfoundland (AP) - Five exhausted dolphins have been trapped behind drifting pack ice for several days and now need rapid rescue, the mayor of an eastern Canadian village said.

The 8-foot animals somehow became separated from the open Atlantic and have been swimming for four days in a shrinking open-water area of Seal Cove's harbor, just 100 feet from shore, said Mayor Winston May.

"They keep going round circles, trying to keep this little pool of water open so that they can have their breathing area. And the whole bay seems to be froze up, there's no where else for them to go," said May.

Wayne Ledwell, an expert on whale rescues, said dolphins won't swim long distances under ice since they need to surface regularly to breathe and the slabs of ice would make that impossible.

Ledwell, who heads Whale Release and Strandings Group, which rescues whales and dolphins, said that if the ice continues to encroach on the open area the dolphins could eventually drown.

May said he has asked Canada's federal Fisheries Department to send an icebreaker into the community's harbor to create a channel to the open Atlantic.

"They're not going to survive much longer," said May. "You can hear (the dolphins) crying all night long," he said.

Officials with the Fisheries Department could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The dolphins are regular visitors to the waters around Newfoundland's Seal Cove, which is about 400 miles northwest of capital city St. John's.