28 Dec 2009

127 whales die on New Zealand beaches

9:03 pm on 28 December 2009

Nearly 130 whales have died in two separate strandings in recent days.

One stranding was on a remote beach in the northwest of the South Island and the other occurred on the Coromandel Peninsula.

A pilot flying over the eastern tip of Farewell Spit on Boxing Day reported a large group of whales stranded on the beach.

The Department of Conservation's Golden Bay area manager, John Mason, says 70 of the 106 pilot whales were already dead.

He says the others were in too poor a condition to refloat, so they were put down. He says the whales will remain unburied because the beach is 30km from the nearest road and the bodies therefore pose no health risk.

Mr Mason says the body of a whale suspected to have been part of the Farewell Spit stranding washed up in the Totaranui Estuary on Monday morning.

He says there is no obvious connection between the two strandings in different parts of the country.

Most strandings occur in December and January, which is a typical pattern throughout the country, he says.

Whales rescued at Colville Bay

On Sunday, a pod of pilot whales beached at Colville Bay on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Residents, holidaymakers and members of local iwi joined Department of Conservation workers in a rescue effort, successfully refloating 42 of the whales. The remaining 21 died on the beach.

DoC spokesperson Steve Bolton told Summer Report the bodies of the 21 whales were dragged to higher ground and local iwi representatives were to carry out a burial.

He said that by 9.30pm on Sunday the survivors were at the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula heading towards Little Barrier Island and were swimming well.