Whales all at sea: No new strandings in Golden Bay

Posted February 16, 2017

Around 120 were put back out to sea, after one of the country's largest recorded mass strandings. Officials declared nearly 350 whales dead.

Dedicated animal lovers saved 100 of the whales but matters were complicated Sunday when a further 18 washed up on another beach, less than a kilometer away. "There's quite a safety issue there", Department of Conservation's, Herb Christopherss told AFP. "They've been singing songs to them, giving them specific names, treating them as kindred spirits".

The crisis began early Friday when a pod of 416 whales were found stranded on the 26-km Farewell Spit, with hundreds more following them over the weekend.

"You could hear the sounds of splashing, of blowholes being cleared, of sighing", said Cheree Morrison, a magazine writer and editor who first stumbled upon the whales. "Crying is the only way to describe it".

According to the BBC, the environmental group Project Johan has a plane flying over the bay to keep track of the movements of the whales that have been successfully refloated.

'The area is now closed to the public because of the risk from whales exploding, ' the conservation department said in a statement. The volunteers were warned that one of the whales had been found with marks that looked like a shark bite.

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"We have staff in a boat offshore because there is a risk they could re-strand", she said. "Hopefully that makes them a lot less buoyant and less likely to drift off".

This picture taken on February 11, 2017 shows a volunteer caring for a pilot whale during a mass stranding at Farewell Spit.

Beached whales are not uncommon on Golden Bay. Some scientists think geomagnetic anomalies may be causing navigation errors, while others believe the whales may be following sick or younger members of the group onto the shore.

On Thursday, the New Zealand Department of Conservation discovered more than 400 whales stranded on the South Island's Farewell Spit, more than half of them already dead. The largest was in 1918, when about 1,000 pilot whales came ashore on the Chatham Islands.

Pilot whales are not listed as endangered, but little is known about their population in New Zealand waters.