Thursday, November 17, 2011

Whale Stranding Season Begins

'Tis the season to be watchful...
The New Zealand whale stranding season is underway (running Nov.-March), with the treacherous Farewell Spit (top of the south Island) claiming its first victims.
A multiple stranding on Monday eventually claimed all the pilot whales involved. A pod of more than 60 was found on Monday evening. Dept.of Conservation (DOC) rangers found 20 dead whales, and one whale in poor condition was euthanised. Tuesday morning, another 44 whales were found stranded nearby, 2-3km from shore, 34 alive and 10 dead. DOC said another 16 whales died since Tues.morning and the decision was made Wed.morning to euthanise the remaining 18. It had been hoped the whales would refloat and hopefully find their way out to sea in the high tides, but they re-stranded each time and more whales died: "The whales seemed to come a little further inshore in each re-stranding. The tides are reducing so it became very unlikely the remaining whales would get out to sea and survive."
A major problem with Farewell Spit is its shallow tidal flats. Rescuers would have had to walk the 2-3km back to shore after re-floating the whales in chest-deep water, and the risk to them was too high. [You may recall the 80+ pilot whales that died there last February...]
...meanwhile, a humpback whale at Monkey Island near Orepuki (about 40km W of Invercargill) was shot by DOC last weekend, after it was determined the whale was in pain and would not have survived flotation. The 10m whale come in with the tide last Sat.morning. It was very thin and weak, and there was no chance of floating it. Humpback whales rarely strand so when they do there is some underlying reason.

No comments: