Dolphins have privacy rights?

What killed Old Bridge's South River dolphin? That's what reporter Carly Sitrin wanted to find out after the dolphin died in August.

Sitrin filed an open public records request with the state Department of Agriculture for the animal's necropsy results. Shockingly, DOA denied her request six months later out of respect to "the individual privacy of the dolphin."

What kind of legal privacy does a dolphin deserve? Sitrin was especially baffled, as the state has released other necropsy reports.

J. Patrick Brown of MuckRock.com, an online public records resource and investigative journalism site, said New Jersey has a growing record of problematic OPRA denials in the last year.

But according to Bob Schoelkoplf of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, the organization that rescued the dolphin, this is a big misunderstanding. He says the MMSC commissioned the state to conduct the necropsy, so the test results belong to him, not the state.

Schoelkopf said the Department of Agriculture should simply have redirected Sitrin to his organization instead of denying her request outright.

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