Sixteen whales were euthanased this afternoon after 12 of their pod died earlier in the day following a stranding in Golden Bay.
Twenty-eight pilot whales stranded on Farewell Spit in Golden Bay about 10am this morning.
Eleven died in the hour that followed, one a couple hours later and the twelve surviving whales were facing a dire two days ahead of them , DOC biodiversity manager Hans Stoffregen said.
DOC made the decision to euthanase the mammals following consultation with Project Jonah.
They were euthanased this afternoon, Project Jonah chief executive Kimberly Muncaster confirmed.
It was likely that more whales would strand in the days to come and volunteers were on alert, Muncaster said.
The whales were brought ashore in an “unusually high” tide this morning and it was incredibly unlikely they would have been able to be refloated in the next two days, Stoffregen said.
“It’s really sad and not a situation we take lightly but anything else is inhumane and would prolong their suffering,” Stoffregen said.
“They don’t look that flash so putting them all through another two days of this is inhumane.”
The pod was lying almost amongst the driftwood and the next high tide at midnight probably would not reach them, he said.
They were shot with a high calibre rifle and were left on the beach to be savaged and rot.
DOC first got a call at 9am that a baby whale had stranded on its own and when staff went there they learnt of another 28 stranded about 2km east of the bottom of Farewell Spit.
It had called in Project Jonah volunteers who were with the whales.
Stoffregen said it would possible more whales might also come in, and he asked anyone seeing more whales out at sea or beached to contact DOC.
This stranding was earlier than usual, with the main season for whale strandings from around the end of the year through until March, he said.
Today it was becoming windy and bad weather was expected on Saturday, he said.
Whale strandings are not uncommon in Golden Bay, at the top of the South Island.
A pod of 99 pilot whales stranded at Farewell Spit in Golden Bay in January. Many died while more than 90 volunteers worked to refloat others.
Muncaster says the geography of Golden Bay was incredibly confusing for whales and they often ended up stranded again after being refloated.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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