Whale hit and killed by vessel

16:00, Nov 20 2012
Bryde's Whale
SHIP STRIKE: A dead Bryde’s whale undergoes a necropsy at Calypso Bay after it was found washed up near Wharf Bay on Motuihe Island.

The death of another Bryde's whale in the Hauraki Gulf is highlighting the pressing problem of ship strikes says the Department of Conservation.

A necropsy on the female Bryde's whale found dead on Motuihe Island last week has confirmed it was hit by a vessel.

The Hauraki Gulf is one of the few places in the world with a resident population of the critically endangered whales.

DOC estimates there are fewer than 200 living in the gulf.

The 14.5 metre long whale was found on rocks near Wharf Bay on Motuihe on November 11. The following day DOC towed it to Calypso Bay on Motuihe.

The necropsy was completed on November 14 and the whale was buried at Calypso Bay after a blessing by Ngai Tai representatives.


Calypso Bay is a suitable site for the necropsy and burial because it is rarely used by visitors to Motuihe and has no archaeological sites.

DOC Auckland area biodiversity manager Phil Brown says: "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.

"Ship strike poses the greatest threat to Bryde's whales in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. This latest death highlights the urgent need to take action to address this problem."

In the last 16 years there have been 42 confirmed deaths of Bryde's whales in the gulf. Eighteen were examined and 16 are most likely to have died as the result of being struck by a vessel, he says.

"DOC is working with a wide number of organisations and agencies to address the ship strike issue."

The Environmental Defence Society, the Hauraki Gulf Forum and Auckland University convened two workshops which were attended by shipping interests, iwi, DOC and other government agencies to develop a plan of action.

As a result shipping representatives agreed to implement measures including slowing ships in the Hauraki Gulf when schedules permit, shipping lanes to reduce the area of the gulf in which ships travel, watching for whales while ships move through the gulf during the day and establishing a Hauraki Gulf large whale warning system.

It will involve commercial whale and dolphin watching operators, and other boats in the gulf, reporting whale sightings to Ports of Auckland who relay the sightings to all shipping in the gulf.

Mr Brown says the shipping industry has also agreed to contribute funding for research focusing primarily on reducing ship strike.

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