VIDEO: Rare Dolphin Sighting in Baltimore Harbor

A Port of Baltimore worker’s sharp eyes led to a whole city’s concern for a young dolphin this week.

John Papadakis was working up in an aerial man lift on South Clinton Street in Southeast Baltimore Thursday morning— giving him and coworker Aaron Hamilton an excellent view of the harbor below. They spotted what looked like a dolphin, swimming between the piers.

Papadakis tells Bay Bulletin, “I quickly pulled out my phone because I knew this was a rare occurence.” Watch Papadakis’s video below:

He was right about the rarity of the event. Dolphins are often found on the Chesapeake Bay, but rarely do they come up the Patapsco River into the Baltimore harbor.

The National Aquarium has identified the marine mammal as a Risso’s dolphin calf— the first any of the Aquarium staff can recall seeing in the harbor. The Risso’s dolphin, sometimes known as a gray dolphin, usually prefer deeper offshore waters.

Papadakis’s video and other reports spread quickly and caused public concern that the dolphin may be in distress, especially because of the unusual movements it was making. But the National Aquarium decided not to try to rescue the young dolphin, saying that could do more harm than good.

“Due to the fact that the dolphin is free swimming in a deep, large body of water, attempting a rescue would be dangerous to both human responders and the calf,” the Aquarium tells Bay Bulletin.

The Aquarium consulted with its partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), explaining, “At the National Aquarium, we strive to protect all animals, however there are times when circumstances are beyond our control… We believe our best option is not to intervene at this time.”

The Aquarium also points out that the closest rehabilitation facility equipped to handle dolphins is in Florida, and a successful rescue would still mean the dolphin would have to endure a long trip.

The Aquarium asks that anyone who spots the dolphin call their stranding hotline at 410-576-3880, and reminds everyone to stay at least 150 feet away from it, including those on boats, paddle boards or kayaks.

-Meg Walburn Viviano

Bay Bulletin