IMAGE: Wayward Dolphins
Mel Evans  /  AP
Boaters look on as dolphins swim in the Shrewsbury River Wednesday in Sea Bright, N.J.
updated 7/2/2008 5:55:57 PM ET 2008-07-02T21:55:57

A group of 15 dolphins who have taken up residence in a river near the Jersey Shore will be allowed to stay there through the July Fourth weekend, even though a nearby fireworks display draws heavy boat traffic.

Federal environmental officials say the danger of trying to move or scare the dolphins back into the ocean outweighs the risk of letting them stay in the Shrewsbury River.

"They're evidently in good condition," said Teri Frady, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "We have no reason to think they're incapable of getting away from things that disturb them."

Authorities had expressed concern about boat traffic on the narrow river for a giant fireworks display that typically draws 150,000 people on land and hundreds more on the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers.

Patrols will enforce a perimeter around the dolphins throughout the holiday weekend, state police Sgt. Stephen Jones said.

"We're not going to be out there with a tape measure, but we want to make sure people don't harass the dolphins or put them in danger," Jones said.

The bottlenose dolphins have been in the river for about 2 1/2 weeks, possibly after making a wrong turn chasing after schools of bait fish on their journey along the coast.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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