Monday, February 7, 2011

Farewell Spit Whale Trap

A large stranding on Friday 4th.: about 80 pilot whales near Farewell Spit in Golden Bay, top of the South Island.
Around 100 people unsuccessfully tried to refloat the whales against an outgoing tide. The next high tide wasn't until 11:30 Friday night, so another attempt was planned for Saturday morning, and in the meantime, staff worked to keep the whales cool.
However most of the pod swam off unassisted on that overnight tide, leaving 14 dead. The pod was reduced to 66: nine died on Friday, including a baby, and a further five died overnight.
DOC searched for the pod along the Farewell Spit to check if they'd restranded, and sadly that's what happened: 41 at Farewell Spit (one died), and another 25 whales just south of the original Puponga stranding site at Triangle Flat.
Sunday Update:
Three pilot whales were found dead near Farewell Spit, after they beached a third time this morning.
The two groups of whales which restranded on Saturday afternoon moved with the overnight high tide and then formed three groups: about 19 whales near Puponga, about 25 at the base of Farewell Spit on Triangle Flat, and about 25 whales 10km down the spit.
DOC planned to refloat the whales on the 1pm high tide, first focussing on freeing the Puponga whales.
Monday Update:
DOC and volunteers successfully refloated 65 pilot whales that restranded in Golden Bay yesterday. But 17 of the original pod of 82 whales that first stranded at Puponga Point on Friday afternoon died during the weekend. The three groups of whales beached over a 10-kilometre stretch were refloated on the noon high tide. The first group of whales to be refloated milled around, waiting until the last group were refloated before they all swam off to deeper water.

Golden Bay traps pilots whales reasonably often: the long curve and gentle shelving of Farewell Spit is notoriously deceptive.
+ Summer 1989: 348 whales beached in Golden Bay - most were saved.
+ December 2006: 129 whales stranded on Puponga Beach - about 100 whales saved.
+ New Year's Day 2007: just two weeks later, 50 whales died after beaching in the same area.
+ December 2009: 105 whales stranded there - all died.

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