The Department of Conservation says eight pilot whales it has spent two days trying to get safely back out to sea 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.