Preparing the dead pilot whales for burial
Image: DOC

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


DOC has been dealing with a mass stranding of whales overnight at Chatham Islands.

Date:  30 November 2018

An overnight stranding of pilot whales has occurred at the southern end of Hanson Bay, near the township of Owenga in the Chatham Islands.

DOC was notified on Thursday evening of a large number of approximately 80 – 90 whales at Hanson Bay. As it was too late to act, DOC staff returned at first light to assess the situation.

When staff arrived at the scene approximately 30 – 40 pilot whales had re-floated themselves and returned to sea, however 51 whales remained. All were dead but one. A decision was made to euthanise this whale, due to its very poor condition.

DOC Chatham Islands Operations Manager Dave Carlton says, “There was no likelihood of being able to successfully save the remaining whale. Sadly, the decision was made to euthanise. It was the most humane thing to do.

“This is always an awful decision to have to make.”

DOC has notified local Moriori imi and Ngati Mutunga iwi and is working with locals to bury the whales at site.

Skin and blubber samples are being taken from the latest whales to have stranded and will be sent to Massey University scientists in an attempt to understand more about this species.

Marine mammal strandings are a relatively common occurrence on New Zealand shores. This is the second large stranding of pilot whales this week. On Rakiura/Stewart Island on Monday there was a mass stranding of 145 pilot whales. None survived.

Ten pygmy killer whales also stranded on 90-mile beach in Northland on Sunday.

Exactly why whales and dolphins strand is not fully known but factors can include sickness, navigational error, geographical features, a rapidly falling tide, being chased by a predator, or extreme weather. More than one factor may contribute to a stranding. 

Images of the strandings

Media are welcome to use these mages. Credit to DOC. 

Dead pilot whales washed up on the rocks on Hanson Bay in the Chatham Islands (PDF, 2,000K)

Preparing the dead whales for burial (JPG, 2,000K)

A mass grave is dug to bury the 51 pilot whales. The whales were buried there – because of the location it was not possible to bury them in the sand. This is the normal practice when dealing with dead marine mammals.

Image 1 | Image 2 | Image 3 | Image 4 (all JPG, 2,200K)

Video: Dr Dave Lundquist on whale strandings

Download a video of Dr Lunquist discussing whale strandings (MP4, 35,700K)


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