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Video Shows Dolphins Joining NYC Kayaker

"Close encounters of the best kind."

It's been long established that New York, New York, is a wonderful town. Its proximate waterways, however, enjoy a less esteemed reputation. Although the East River and Hudson River have come a long way since the super-polluted '60s and '70s, it's always notable when marine life seemingly more suited to tropical waters pops up right next to Manhattan. That's what happened to some New York City kayakers last weekend, when they spotted dolphins frolicking in the water close by, almost near enough to touch. 

"Close Encounters of the Best Kind"


Habiba Hussein was kayaking on the Hudson River, which runs along the west side of Manhattan, when she spotted dolphins arcing over the surface of the water. Leaping head over fins, they looked to be having a fine time in the summer-warmed waters. One came within a foot or two of Habiba's kayak. "Close encounters of the best kind…BEST DAY EVER," she wrote when posting the video to Instagram. reported that Habiba and her compatriots from the Manhattan Kayaking Co. saw at least three of the animals, which "seemed happy to hang out around the area" until they were scared off by some passing motorboats. 

"Tons of Sightings"


This isn't the first time dolphins have been sighted in waters closest to the Big Apple. In fact, this June, the New York Times reported that more and more dolphins have been sighted in the New York Harbor, where salty ocean water mixes with fresh water from the Hudson—but no one's sure why. "We've had a ton of sightings," said Maxine Montello, an official at the New York Marine Rescue Center. "It's a glory to see stronger populations but also a worry because there's increased overlap with humans and shared resources."

"Dolphin Revival" In An Unlikely Place


The Times called the phenomenon a "dolphin revival," and said it may be due to improved habitat quality, warmer water caused by climate change, and the resurgence of Atlantic menhaden, the small fish (similar to herring) upon which dolphins feed (up to 20 a day). The fish is also known as bunker, which is considered pretty much inedible by humans but was once overfished as bait. But dolphins and birds can't get enough of it. 

Waterway Was Once "New York's Sewer"

New York City, helicopter view

In terms of habitat quality, the Hudson and East rivers—which run alongside each side of Manhattan—have become significantly less polluted. For decades during the mid-20th century, companies discharged industrial waste, harmful chemicals like mercury, and toxic compounds like PCBs into the Hudson River, causing the area to be declared a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1984. 

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Whale Spotting in NYC Waters, Once a Novelty, Now Common

fin whale
Juan Garcia/Shutterstock

Decades of cleanup efforts seemed to bear fruit in 2016, when a headline-making humpback whale was spotted in the Hudson River near Manhattan's Upper West Side. Since then, the whales—and dolphins—have become common sights, and varying species of fish have returned to what was once known as "New York's sewer." (But experts still insist that no fish caught in the Hudson River be eaten.) 

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a seasoned writer and editor with a passion for helping people make life-improving decisions. Read more
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