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As sharks circle Rockaway Beach, a friendlier fin made an appearance on the Hudson this weekend, with lucky kayakers capturing footage of several dolphins swimming up the West Side on Sunday.
New Yorker Habiba Hussain, a regular boater through the Manhattan Kayak Co (MKC) at Pier 84, was out for a paddle around 1pm when her fellow boater spotted at least three dolphins frolicking in the Hudson near W125th Street.
“We regularly see big fish jumping in and out of the water,” said Habiba. “I was with a friend and she said, ‘I think I just saw a dolphin!’ I didn’t see them at first, so I said, ‘I’m pretty sure it was just one of these large fish that are all around the Hudson’. But then we saw them jumping and I was like,’Nope, those are dolphins!’”
The animals seemed unfazed by the kayakers and stayed nearby for about an hour, leaping in and out of the water until two motor boats drove by. “That probably scared them off,” said Habiba. “But before that, they seemed happy to hang out around the area.”
While it was her first sighting, other members of the Manhattan Kayak Co spotted a few dolphins on the West Side earlier in the summer. Jay Cartagena of MKC said: “Saw my first dolphin on the Hudson in Hell’s Kitchen last month. I have been paddling on the river for 10 years — it was a major moment for me.” He added that dolphin sightings are “not a common occurrence, but we are hoping they will be.” Many believe the animals have made their way west “as they seek out a food source. The abundance of menhaden in the Hudson would supply that need,” he commented.
Habiba was pleasantly surprised to see dolphins thriving in a river which has historically been polluted with as much as 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) deposited by the General Electric Company over a 30-year period. “The Hudson is sometimes quite dirty,” she said, “but if dolphins are there, the water’s got to be at least a little cleaner than it used to be — hopefully it’ll help tourism and encourage more people to get out on the river.”
The Hudson has proved hospitable for a variety of wildlife over the past several years, with seals and even a Humpback Whale sighting near Pier 84. Even rarer, in 2015 a fisherman named Wu Zhen managed to catch a dogfish shark in the Hudson near Battery Park.
For now, Habiba is eagerly looking forward to getting back out on the Hudson in hopes of spotting another Flipper. “I still have a smile on my face,” she said. “I never thought I’d see a dolphin in New York City until we heard that some people had seen them earlier in the year.”
She added, “Even though I was on the lookout, they haven’t been seen for several weeks so we’d assumed they’d left the area and weren’t expecting them at all. I was pretty much hyperventilating on the boat, thinking ‘Oh my God, this is actually happening?’ We’ll be back, because as we were saying to each other, ‘If dolphins are coming to the area, what can we see next time?’”