Wildlife volunteers who spent more than three hours rescuing a young bottlenose dolphin in the Coffs Harbour Marina are hopeful it reunited with its family pod.
A beach walker spotted the stranded 1.5-metre marine mammal, believed to be one year old, in shallow waters on Wednesday morning and alerted local New South Wales wildlife organisations.
Members from the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA) were joined by Dolphin Marine Conservation Park (DMCP) and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) representatives to assess the situation.
DMCP operations manager Kieran Marshall said it was the first time he had seen a dolphin stranded in the marina.
“For it to strand in that location is not normal,” he said.
“It was an awesome outcome for everyone involved to get a positive release, which is quite rare for marine animal strandings.”
After its rescue, the young dolphin was relocated to nearby Boambee Beach and released.
Young dolphin distressed
ORRCA vice president Jools Farrell said the dolphin was in distress and vocalising when rescue teams arrived just after 6am.
“They do get confused if they go into an area where it is shallow and they’re on their own, especially a young dolphin,” she said.
“It was sending out sounds but thankfully members of the public in Coffs Harbour got onto it.
“We believe it was one of the local pod dolphins.”
Dolphin with likely shark bite
NPWS project officer Duane March said the mammal had a 20-centimetre gash on its side, most likely from a shark attack.
But Mr March said it did not look recent and was unlikely to be reason the animal became isolated.
“The animal might have come in with its pod overnight foraging and just got turned around and the pod might have left and stranded the animal,” he said.
Mr March said apart from the shock of being stranded and the recent shark bite, the dolphin was in good health, which made him hopeful it had returned to its pod.
“When we were down there on the beach for the release you could see the pod out in the breakers,” he said.
A DMCP spokesperson said on social media it would monitor the area closely over the coming days in case the dolphin became stranded again.
Ms Farrell said it was a timely reminder for members of the public to contact ORRCA’s rescue hotline if they spotted distressed wildlife along NSW’s coast.