potinsnews.com March 25, 2017

100 whales refloated in NZ rescue bid, but many stranded again

12 February 2017, 12:30 | Jamie Ballard

NINA HINDMARSH FAIRFAX NZ Hundreds of whales have stranded at Farewell Spit in one of the biggest beachings in New Zealand history

Hundreds of whales have stranded at Farewell Spit in one of the biggest beachings in New Zealand history

More than 400 pilot whales were caught at the base of the spit in Golden Bay with majority dying, but more than 100 were refloated by hundreds of volunteers and Department of Conservation (DoC) workers on high tide at 10.30am, said RNZI.

New Zealand has one of the highest stranding rates in the world, with about 300 dolphins and whales ending up on beaches every year, according to Project Jonah.

Hours after rescuers managed to re-float a group of beached whales, a new group swam aground on New Zealand's South Island Saturday, posing a new challenge for disheartened and exhausted volunteers. Whales can find it very hard to get back to deeper waters if they get in too close.

Lamason added that volunteers were warned by the conservation department about the presence of stingrays and sharks in the sea after a pilot whale that was washed ashore seemed to have bite marks of a shark.

"It is one of the saddest things I have seen", Peter Wiles, one of the first volunteers to reach Farewell Spit, told Fairfax New Zealand.

DOC spokesman Mike Ogle said the whales had stranded on the inside beach of Farewell Spit, 1km from Triangle Flat, near Puponga. "Unless they get a couple of strong leaders who decide to head out to sea, the remaining whales will try and keep with their pod on the beach".

The group were from a different pod to the 416 whales that were stranded on Thursday night, Christophers said. "We can only find out from large datasets, but if we know that storms are happening and they are connected with strandings, we can make sure we have resources available to respond to any strandings".

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He said 20 whales had been humanely killed by conservation workers as they were in a poor condition.

A heartbreaking scene: the water was cold but it didn't stop volunteers dedicated to trying to save the pilot whales.

It's not clear what the chances of the remaining whales are, but it doesn't look too good.

It is feared even more whales could be stranded by sunrise in yet another mass stranding.

The current stranding become the third largest in the recorded history of such events in New Zealand.

Farewell Spit, a sliver of sand that arches like a hook into the Tasman Sea, has been the site of previous mass strandings. Farewell Spit has been occasionally described as a whale trap, since its unusual shape and shallow waters often impair the echolocation of whales rounding the South Island's northern tip. In 1985, about 450 whales were stranded in Auckland.

The spit's long coastline and sloping beaches make it hard for whales to navigate away once they get too close, earning its sand banks the nickname "whale trap".

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