Whales at risk of restranding near Nelson

01:50, Jan 07 2012
Stranded whales
STRANDED: Whales stranded on Farewell Spit in Nelson's Golden Bay.

Whales refloated on Farewell Spit in Golden Bay remain in danger of restranding as low tide approaches.

About 50 to 60 people - including DOC staff, Project Jonah members, local residents and holiday makers - helped move the 18 long-finned pilot whales off the beach on the high tide about 9.15am.

The refloated whales were among a group of 25 that stranded about 2pm yesterday at Triangle Flat, from a pod of about 70 seen swimming close to the beach. Seven died overnight.

About 2pm Department of Conservation Golden Bay area manager John Mason said the whales were well offshore but still not quite out of danger.

They were swimming north which was taking them towards shallower water in Farewell Spit.

Boats were being used to try to point the whales in the right direction, while people were also being put in the water at times, Mason said.

Often whales would turn away when someone was put into the water in front of them.

Low tide was at 3.15pm and Mason was optimistic that if the whales were still swimming at that time, they would be okay, at least for now.

There was still a risk the whales could come back into the inter tidal area when the tide came back in.

In November, 47 pilot whales died and 18 were euthanased after they stranded on tidal flats about 3km offshore at the tip of Farewell Spit.

- Fairfax NZ