News from Department of Conservation at 4.30pm
Fifty of the 62 pilot whales refloated off Farewell Spit early this afternoon are still at sea and swimming south of Farewell Spit. They are being monitored by the Tasman District Council harbourmaster in a boat.
Twelve whales have died. Two died during the refloat. Ten whales had not followed the other whales further out to sea and had swum further east along the Spit coast, eventually stranding about 10km east from Triangle Flat near the base of the Spit.
Two of those 10 whales died and another 8 were euthanised by DOC rangers out of concern they could cause the rest of the whales to re-strand.
DOC Takaka Conservation Services Manager John Mason said the whales were euthanised to prevent a repeat of what occurred yesterday when some whales re-stranded after being refloated and appeared to cause the rest of the whales to then strand.
“Euthanising the 8 remaining whales that re-beached this afternoon gave more chance the 50 whales still at sea won’t also re-strand and will make their way safely out to sea. We were also particularly concerned not to have all the whales strand in the area where the 10 whales stranded this afternoon where it would be very difficult to successfully refloat the whales in the large area of inter-tidal flats.”
Yesterday, after 40 whales were refloated, 30 swam further out to sea but 10 whales hung back swimming parallel to the coastline. They then re-stranded. The other whales at sea then headed back to shore, also re-stranding on Farewell Spit.
About 100 volunteers have assisted in caring for the whales and refloating them, many of them trained Project Jonah volunteers. DOC is very grateful for their help.
News from Department of Conservation at 2pm
DOC rangers, Project Jonah volunteers and others have early this afternoon refloated 62 pilot whales found stranded on Farewell Spit this morning about 5km from its base.
It is too early to say yet whether or not the rescue effort will be fully successful with the whales remaining in deeper water and moving further out to sea. There is still a risk of whales restranding.
Most of the refloated whales are swimming in deeper water towards the other side of Golden Bay and it is hoped they will continue to swim safety further out in the bay. They are being monitored by the Tasman District Council harbourmaster in a boat.
Around 6 to 8 whales though have remained close to Farewell Spit and are swimming further along the spit. They are being monitored by DOC rangers in a boat.
The Department of Conservation this morning called for volunteers, particularly those with wetsuits, to help try to refloat more whales stranded at the base of Farewell Spit. A statement from the department said the attempt would be made at today’s high tide at 12.17pm.
Anyone who can help was asked to get to Triangle Flat at the base of Farewell Spit by around 11am. As well as bringing wetsuits if they have them, people should bring warm clothing, water, food and all the gear they need.
DOC rangers have now counted 71 pilot whales stranded at Farewell Spit, about 5km from its base, and spread out over 1.5 km. Eight of the whales are dead.
Project Jonah trained volunteers and other volunteers have been arriving to care for the remaining 63 whales, keeping them as comfortable as possible and wet with buckets of sea water.
News from DOC – January 18
Fifty pilot whales are now stranded on Farewell Spit about 3km from its base. Forty whales were refloated this morning off the base of the Spit but they have have now re-stranded and have been joined by another 10 whales. A further six whales are still in the sea.
DOC rangers, Project Jonah volunteers and others are now keeping the whales as comfortable as possible and wet with buckets of sea water until dark when rescuers will leave the area for the night.
DOC Takaka conservation services manager John Mason said the whales should come afloat in the midnight high tide and could move. He said it was hoped they would find their way safely out to sea once afloat but some or all might re-strand.
DOC rangers will be out at first light to look for the whales.
Earlier news from DOC
Some of the 40 pilot whales which had been refloated off the base of Farewell Spit this morning have since re-stranded and Department of Conservation rangers and volunteers are working hard to prevent the rest of the pod beaching.
Thirty of the whales had begun swimming in deeper water towards Separation Point, at the top of Abel Tasman National Park, and DOC Takaka Conservation Services Manager John Mason said DOC staff had been cautiously optimistic they would remain safely at sea. However, ten of the whales had not gone with them and had remained swimming parallel to the coastline.
Early this afternoon all the whales turned towards Farewell Spit and began stranding about 3km up from the base of the Spit.
With the tide now going out, DOC is concerned the whales that are still afloat could also strand. Rescuers are trying to keep those whales in the sea and move them out into deeper water.
There were 53 pilot whales found stranded at Triangle Flat at the base of Farewell Spit early this morning of which 13 had died. Rescuers refloated the remaining 40 around high tide at 11.45am.
January 16: No hope for last eight whales