Tests show whale was killed by ship

KILLED AT SEA: The Bryde's whale was found dead on Motuihe Island.
KILLED AT SEA: The Bryde's whale was found dead on Motuihe Island.

A Bryde's whale found dead in the Hauraki Gulf on Sunday died after being struck by a ship.

The results of the necropsy carried out yesterday highlighted the need to stop ship strike in the Hauraki Gulf, the Department of Conservation said.

At least 42 Bryde's whales have died in the gulf in the past 16 years, including 16 that died after being struck by boats.

A DOC ranger found the 14.5m long whale washed up on Motuihe Island - between Waiheke and Motutapu - on Sunday.

The whale was buried at Calypso Bay after being blessed by Ngai Tai representatives.

"The necropsy has confirmed the Bryde's whale was alive when it was struck by a vessel and died as a result of the injuries it received," DOC biodiversity manager Phil Brown said.

The population of Bryde's whales living in New Zealand waters is critically endangered. New Zealand is one of the few places in the world with a resident population of the species, with most found in the Hauraki Gulf.

Fewer than 200 of the whales frequent the gulf.

Brown said DOC was working with a "wide number of organisations and agencies" to reduce ship strike and workshops had been held recently. 

As a result, shipping firms have agreed to slow down in the gulf schedules permit and set up shipping lanes to reduce the area of the gulf in which ships travel.

They will also set up a warning where commercial whale and dolphin watching operators, and other boats in the gulf, report sightings to Ports of Auckland who relay the sightings to all shipping in the gulf.

The shipping industry has agreed to contribute funding to research ways to reduce ship strike.

Hauraki Gulf Forum chairman John Tregidga said the workshops highlighted the need for ships to cut their speed.

"A few large ships travel through the Hauraki Gulf at more than 20 knots," he said. "The average speed for large ships in the gulf is 14.2 knots. Scientists have estimated that if this speed was reduced to 10 knots, the Bryde's whale would have a 75 per cent chance of surviving a strike."  

Auckland Now