Tuesday, 16 October, 2018

More than 400 whales strand on New Zealand beach, most die

Theresa Hayes | 10 February, 2017, 02:38

Nearby residents have come to help - many trying to keep the whales alive until high tide.

"Out at Farewell Spit it's a big massive sweeping hook of sand coming about, the bay is very shallow and once the whales get in there.it's very hard to work out which way is out".

The area seems to confuse whales and has been the site of previous mass strandings.

There are renewed fears the rescued whales will beach themselves again as they attempt to stay with their stranded fellows in the bay, he added.

Lamason said the reason the whales beached themselves was unknown but he believed it was partly due to the local geography.

More than 400 pilot whales have died on a New Zealand beach in one of the country's worst strandings.

The whale charity Project Jonah said 70 to 80 volunteers had turned up.

In the meantime volunteers would help DOC staff care for the stranded whales throughout the afternoon and do whatever they could to keep them comfortable, he said.

"We are in the farthest corner of the universe here but now volunteers have started turning up en masse and there are hundreds of people here and they have brought food and supplies so they are prepared to be here all day and all night if needed".

Farewell Spit is sometimes described as a whale trap. Whales can find it very hard to get back to deeper waters if they get in too close.

Authorities were asking for fit and competent volunteers to travel to the beach and help with the rescue efforts.

Conservation workers said numerous surviving whales were likely to be in bad shape given the number of deaths, and their condition would deteriorate.

According to conservation group Project Jonah, most of the 416 animals were already dead when they were found. The Department of Conservation put the number of dead whales at about 250 to 300.

Andrew Lamason, spokesman for the department, said it was one of the largest mass beachings recorded in New Zealand, where strandings are relatively common.

The largest was in 1918, when about 1,000 pilot whales came ashore on the Chatham Islands.