No hope for the last eight pilot whales stranded on Farewell Spit

News from DOC
After two days trying to get them back out to sea, eight pilot whales have been found stranded again on Farewell Spit this morning, a ninth whale with them and all in poor condition.

DOC Takaka Conservation Services Manager John Mason said the decision had been made to euthanise the whales as the chances were now very low that they could be successfully refloated and moved safely out to sea.

“It is a hard call to make but the whales appear to be stressed and suffering from the ordeal of being beached for hours several times over the past two days.

“We have made every effort working with Project Jonah volunteers and others to refloat the whales and to shepherd them safely out to sea. In spite of all our efforts, they showed no inclination yesterday to swim out to sea once refloated and they attempted to re-strand.

“It was only quick action by volunteers and DOC rangers to stop them and move them into deeper water that prevented them re-stranding.

“The whales are in a worse condition today and even if refloated are likely to continue to try to re-strand. Also there is strong wind forecast for today which makes conditions difficult for refloating whales.

“We have done all we can to help these whales but there is only so much we can do for them. It also needs them to help themselves in swimming safely out to sea. Euthanising them humanely now relieves their suffering.”

Mr Mason said DOC had much appreciated the assistance given with the whales by around 60 volunteers in total over the past two days, particularly many Project Jonah volunteers and also local people and others.

The whales were among around 65 pilot whales first spotted off Taupata Point, south of Farewell Spit, shortly before 8am on Tuesday 14 January. Thirteen of the whales later that morning stranded on Farewell Spit, about 7 km from its base, one of which died that afternoon.

DOC rangers and volunteers were able to get the whales afloat around high tide that night but due to fading light had to leave the whales before they could be grouped together and moved out to sea. The whales were found re-stranded in the same area yesterday morning. Another four had died.

When DOC rangers left the area at dark last night the whales were in shallow water near the base of Farewell Spit. The whales were this morning found stranded a short distance from the base of Farewell Spit.

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Photo from Project Jonah

News from DOC – January 15
DOC rangers and Project Jonah volunteers have worked hard through the day to keep eight whales refloated off Farewell Spit this morning from re-stranding. After the whales were refloated mid-morning, rescuers formed a human chain to nudge the whales out into deeper water. Rescuers moved them a long way out from shore in the receding tide and prevented them re-stranding in that area again. The whales began swimming in deeper water along the coastline early this afternoon being monitored by DOC rangers in a boat and from shore.

Then around 3pm there were concerns the whales might re-strand when they moved into shallower water near the base of Farewell Spit. Rescuers raced into the sea to turn the whales back into deeper water. Rescuers are currently still in the sea with the whales encouraging them to move out into deeper water.

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Photo from Project Jonah

Low tide was around 4pm and it was hoped the deepening water of the incoming tide would help keep the whales from stranding.

Earlier News from DOC
Eight of the 13 pilot whales that stranded on Farewell Spit yesterday have re-stranded there overnight. Five whales have died – one yesterday afternoon and four overnight.

At 11.30am this morning, the eight surviving whales had been refloated by DOC rangers and volunteers but the whales were still milling around in the sea not far from shore.

There are concerns the whales could re-strand in the outgoing tide. Should the whales start to become at risk of re-stranding, rescuers will try to deter them from moving towards the shore and encourage them into deeper water.

Last night rescuers had to pull out due to fading light around 9.15pm having got 12 whales afloat but not having been able to fully get them grouped together and moving out to sea. The other 50 or so whales in the pod have not been seen since DOC rangers in a boat lost sight of them in choppy sea early yesterday afternoon.

News from DOC – January 14
DOC rangers working with more than 40 volunteers tonight got 12 pilot whales stranded on Farewell Spit back floating in the sea but it is uncertain whether they will move off safely into deeper water or might re-strand. Due to darkness, rescuers had to leave the whales floating close to shore around 9.15pm.

It is hoped the whales will swim safely further out. Rescuers though were unable to complete the full procedure for successfully refloating whales before darkness fell when it is unsafe for people to be in the sea helping whales. This involves bringing the whales together once floated and getting them moving in a group out to sea.

Many of the volunteers that assisted DOC rangers are trained Project Jonah volunteers and came from the local area and further afield to help. DOC is grateful for their help.

Initially, 13 whales had stranded about 7km from the base of Farewell Spit around 11am today but one died this afternoon. DOC rangers in a boat were monitoring another 50 or so whales still out at sea but lost sight of them early this afternoon in choppy seas and their whereabouts are not known.

DOC rangers will be out at first light looking to see if any whales have stranded overnight on the coastline along and south of Farewell Spit.

Earlier News from DOC
Around 13 pilot whales have this morning stranded near the base of Farewell Spit and the Department of Conservation is trying to prevent another 50 or so in the pod from stranding. DOC has been monitoring the whales since being alerted to the pod of about 60 whales close to shore off Taupata Point, south of Farewell Spit, shortly before 8am this morning. The first whales stranded on Farewell Spit around 11am.

DOC is using a boat to try to shepherd the whales still afloat out to sea to avoid their also stranding.

DOC has called for assistance from Project Jonah volunteers to help with the stranded whales and says currently no other volunteers are needed to assist.

DOC Takaka ranger Greg Napp said the Project Jonah volunteers will assist DOC staff to care for the stranded whales and do what they can to protect them from the sun and would also help DOC staff attempt to refloat the whales before dark tonight.

“We plan to attempt to refloat the stranded whales in the incoming tide tonight. We are hoping we can get them afloat and further out to sea before dark when it would become unsafe for people to work in the sea trying to refloat the whales.”

UPDATE at 2.45pm
There are still 13 pilot whales stranded on Farewell Spit and the Department of Conservation has lost sight of the other 50 or so whales in the pod which are thought to be in deeper water and in no immediate risk of stranding.

The stranded whales are about 7 km from the base of Farewell Spit. DOC rangers and around 25 volunteers, both local to Golden Bay and from Project Jonah, are keeping the stranded whales cool and wet with buckets of sea water.

DOC rangers will make an assessment this evening as to whether an attempt to refloat the whales can safely be made before dark in tonight’s incoming tide.

DOC ranger Greg Napp said a strong westerly wind was making conditions difficult and the sea rough.

“We will need to assess the sea conditions around 6.30pm to assess whether it will be safe to have people in chest-deep sea water attempting to refloat the whales in this remote location.”

The whales would need to be refloated before dark when it is unsafe for people to work in the sea trying to refloat the whales.

DOC rangers in a boat had been following the whales still at sea but lost sight of them in the choppy sea.

DOC staff will be out at first light tomorrow morning looking for any whales stranded on the coastline along and south of Farewell Spit.

DOC rangers monitored the pilot whales after being alerted to them close to shore off Taupata Point, south of Farewell Spit, shortly before 8am this morning. The whales began to strand around 11am. DOC called for the help of Project Jonah volunteers to assist with the stranded whales and says no further volunteers are needed at this time.

January 6: Pilot whales stranded on Farewell Spit

 

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