Words by Tess Becker
The Bronx River has long been considered an “open sewer", thanks to massive amounts of industrial waste dumped into it for over a century.
So it was a surprise when people saw dolphins in the river for the first time in years recently.
The sheer amount of pollution drove many local species away for cleaner water, dolphins among them, but years of concerted conservation work have made the water clean enough for the dolphins to swim and hunt in, and ideally, soon make more regular appearances.
“It’s true—dolphins were spotted in the Bronx River this week,” NYC Parks and Rec wrote in a Tweet. “This is great news—it shows that the decades-long effort to restore the river as a healthy habitat is working. We believe these dolphins naturally found their way to the river in search of fish.”
In 2018, the parks department released 400 adult alewife, a type of herring, into the river as part of its efforts to help improve the water ecology. The hope was that the fish would mate and lay eggs in the river restoring a previously naturally occurring population of fish in the only freshwater river in New York City.
According to the BBC, this is the first time dolphins have made their way into the Bronx River in five years.
The section of river that they were spotted in was next to Starlight Park, an area in the Bronx that has previously unused developed land and has since been restored with vegetation, picnic areas, playgrounds, and more.
Hopefully, as conservation efforts continue then other animals along with the dolphins can return to the Bronx River and other bodies of water around New York City.