Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


58 pilot whales have been found stranded on a remote Far North beach this morning.

Date:  20 August 2010

58 pilot whales have been found stranded on a remote Far North beach this morning.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) in Kaitaia received a call from a member of the public at approximately 10.30am this morning advising of a mass whale stranding on Karikari Beach (a remote beach on the Karikari Peninsula north of Doubtless Bay).

On arrival at the beach, DOC staff discovered a tragic scene. Of the 58 whales, only 15 were still alive. Community Relations programme manager for the Department of Conservation in Kaitaia, Carolyn Smith, said the whales had probably stranded some time during the night resulting in so many perishing before being discovered.

Ms Smith said the focus for everyone right now was to try to refloat the survivors. Far North Whale Rescue, who has a team of trained volunteers, is working with the Department to achieve this. The Far North is experiencing heavy rain and wind at present, which is both a help and a hindrance, as it means the whales are not at risk of drying out, but it creates a difficult conditions for rescuers.

High tide is at 4.30pm this afternoon, however due to the heavy rain, the tides are higher than normal. The couple of hours are crucial for successfully refloating the whales. The whales will be positioned to face out to sea and will then need to be held in the water for at least half an hour to allow them to re-orientate themselves, before being released to hopefully swim back out to sea.  

At up to a tonne and half each in weight, it will take at least five people to work with each animal. Ms Smith says that because of the delicate physiology of marine mammals, and the risks associated with refloating them, it’s important that the teams working with them are adequately trained. 

“We’re very grateful to the Far North Whale Rescue, who run free training workshops for people who want to be involved in whale strandings,” said Ms Smith.

The next task facing staff will be the disposal of the deceased whales. The Department is working with local iwi, Ngati Kahu, on appropriate ways for this to happen.

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