Pilot whales stranded at the tip of Farewell Spit were unable to save themselves and are now all dead.
Department of Conservation Golden Bay Area Manager John Mason said 16 whales had died since yesterday morning and DOC staff had taken the difficult decision this morning to euthanise the remaining 18 whales to end their suffering.
‘We had wanted to give the whales a chance to refloat and hopefully find their way out to sea in the high tides yesterday and overnight. But they re-stranded each time and more whales died.
‘The whales seem to have come in 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 that they would survive.
“Rather than prolong the whales’ suffering we decided to take the humane course of euthanising the remaining 18 whales this morning.’
The stranded pilot whales were reported to DOC staff on Monday evening by a Farewell Spit tour guide. DOC rangers who went to the area found 20 dead whales and one whale in a poor condition was euthanised. The next morning the rangers found another 44 whales stranded nearby, 2 – 3 kilometres from shore, 34 of which were alive and 10 dead.
A rescue of the whales was too dangerous to undertake given the distance of the whales from shore in a remote location where tides come in rapidly over the shallow tidal flats. It would be arduous and unsafe for people to walk the 2 - 3 kilometres back to shore after refloating the whales in chest-deep water.
DOC rangers remained at the Spit yesterday and overnight to monitor the whales. They found another 10 whales had died late yesterday afternoon when the high tide receded. A further six whales were found dead when rangers checked again at first light this morning.