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


Around 416 pilot stranded near the base of Farewell Spit overnight, with around 250 to 300 already dead.

Date:  10 February 2017

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Update: 3.30 pm

Around 416 pilot whales stranded near the base of Farewell Spit overnight, of which 250 to 300 were already dead when the whales were discovered.

A refloat of over 100 whales took place on the high tide around 10.30 am Friday morning. The refloat has been partially successful with around 50 whales out swimming in the bay. The remaining 80 to 90 have re-stranded on the beach.

The beached whales will be keep comfortable with the help of volunteers until dark.

The situation will be checked early on Saturday morning to establish if the whales have restranded or not. Information on the situation on the ground will be available by 7.45 am.

There will be another attempt to refloat any remaining stranded whales on the high tide around lunchtime tomorrow.

Over 500 volunteers turned out to assist with the rescue effort, many of whom will be onsite again tomorrow. No further volunteers are needed at this time.

Andrew Lamason, Operations Manager Takaka, acknowledged the great work done by Project Jonah.

"Project Jonah has been doing a fantastic job organising the volunteers, providing instruction and safety briefings, and even managing the carparking issues."

DOC does not work with stranded whales during the hours of darkness for safety reasons.

Whales can become agitated when stressed and can injure or even kill a human with a small flick of a whale fin or tail. They also carry diseases so people need to avoid contact with blowhole exhalent or body fluids.

Whale stranding.
Stranded pilot whales at Farewell Spit today
Image: Deb Price

11 am

The whales were spotted in the water by a DOC staff member last night, and found to have stranded early this morning.

DOC Operations Manager Andrew Lamason said there would be an attempt to refloat the remaining whales on this morning's high tide around 10.30am.

If this is not successful, volunteers will assist DOC staff to care for the stranded whales this afternoon and do what they can to keep them comfortable.

There will be no work done overnight as it would become unsafe for people to be close to the whales in the dark.

If necessary, a second attempt to refloat the stranded whales will take place tomorrow around noon on the high tide.

DOC is working with Project Jonah to refloat the whales that are alive and is calling for fit and competent people to travel to the base of Farewell Spit to assist.

DOC has arranged with Massey University to undertake a necropsy of some animals later today

This is the third largest recorded whale stranding in NZ since data started being collected in the 1800’s. 1000 whales were stranded on the Chatham Islands in 1918 and 450 in Auckland in 1985. 

There is a CAA restricted airspace over Farewell Spit Nature Reserve with no flights allowed under 2,000 feet. CAA regulations apply to drones as well as planes and helicopters.

Whale stranding.
Stranded pilot whales at Farewell Spit today
Image: Deb Price


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