Introduction

A large dead whale has washed up on the rocks at Tapuae Beach, just south of New Plymouth.

Date:  04 July 2014

A large dead whale has washed up on the rocks at Tapuae Beach, just south of New Plymouth. 

At around 20-25 m long the whale is believed to be a blue whale – the largest species on earth. 

Reports from local commercial fishermen and a ship leaving Port Taranaki indicate that the dead whale may have been floating close off the Taranaki coast since at least Sunday. 

Department of Conservation Acting Senior Biodiversity Ranger Callum Lilley said it’s uncommon, but not unusual, to get large whales washed up along the coastline. 

“There have been five dead blue whales washed up on the North Island’s west coast between Wellington and Northland in the past five years, and a dead whale washed up on Waiinu Beach near Whanganui in 2011.” 

High tide limited the time rangers could access the whale today but a thorough examination will be undertaken tomorrow morning. 

“It’s often hard to determine cause of death”, said Mr Lilley. “We are bringing in experts from Massey University to do a post-mortem examination which may give us a better idea.” 

Local iwi members have been to bless the whale.

DOC marine ranger Bryan Williams with a dead blue whale on Tapuae Beach, near Okurukuru.
DOC marine ranger Bryan Williams with a dead blue whale on Tapuae Beach, near Okurukuru

Background information

  • Blue whales can grow up to 25-30 m in length (around the size of  2 x 40 seater buses end on end) and can weigh up to 200 tonne. Their hearts are around the size of a voltswagon beetle car. A subspecies, the pygmy blue whale, grows to around 20 -25 m in length. 
  • Blue whales are baleen feeders – they have no teeth but filter their food through large comb-like structures in their mouths. 
  • They feed on krill – small shrimp-like crustaceans that themselves feed on phytoplankton and algae. Blue whales can eat up to 4 tonnes of krill a day. 
  • Blue whales are an endangered species. While exact numbers are unknown it is estimated there are around 10,000 – 25,000 blue whales in the world. (WWF 2014).

Related link

Whales

Contact

Callum Lilley, Acting Senior Biodiversity Ranger Taranaki. Tel: +64 6 759 7169  Mobile: +64 27 206 5842

Darryn Ratana, Partnerships Manager, Taranaki. Tel: +64 6 759 0350 Mobile: +64 27 500 9130

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