Image: Trapped dolphins
Pam Snow  /  AP
Dolphins are stuck behind drifting pack ice at Seal Cove, a small town in Canada's western Newfoundland.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 2/19/2009 12:32:54 PM ET 2009-02-19T17:32:54

Five exhausted dolphins have been trapped behind drifting pack ice for several days and now need rapid rescue, according to the mayor of an eastern Canadian village.

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 said Wednesday.

"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 asked Canada's federal Fisheries Department to send an icebreaker to create a channel to the open Atlantic, but that he was told no vessels were available.

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

"You could hear the screams coming out of them," the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. quoted resident Stanley Banks as saying. "And they were trying to break the ice there just to survive. And there's us here empty-handed. And DFO (Fisheries) with all this money won't even send a boat in here to let those out? It's a crime."

Ledwell said that sending an icebreaker could pose problems as well. "Those boats push ice ahead of them and that can crush the animal, and that has happened before," the CBC quoted Ledwell as saying.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Dolphins trapped

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