Boat collision may have caused sperm whale beaching near Nelson
A sperm whale which died after beaching on Rabbit Island near Nelson could have been hit by a boat, an expert suggests.
The whale was spotted swimming in Tasman Bay on Thursday and looked to be in poor health. Sperm whales were normally found in waters of 1000 metres or deeper, suggesting it was looking for a place to strand.
Otago University zoologist and researcher Liz Slooten said she was waiting on photos from a fellow researcher but had been told the whale may have injuries consistent with a collision with a boat.
She said the whale's behaviour in shallow waters the day before it was found indicated it was unwell and confused.
"We knew it was a whale stranding in the process of happening. These whales don't come into shallow waters."
She expected to know more later on Saturday when she received video footage and photos of the whale from another researcher.
The sperm whale was seen by Nelson kayaker Daymon Nuhaj beached on the sand at low tide at Rabbit Island early on Friday morning, by which time it had died.
The 15-year-old fisherman was paddling from Monaco toward Rabbit Island with a friend when he spotted something huge on the sand.
He said from the angle he was not sure what it was but decided to investigate. It was almost 6am and low-tide.
As Nuhaj pushed his kayak up onto the sand he could see the tail of the sperm whale sticking directly up from the sand. That's when he realised what he had found.
"I rang dad and said 'I caught the biggest fish of the day'," Nuhaj said.
He said it was an exciting but sad find to see the animal which was almost 15 metres in length.
The whale had gouged a hole in the sand with its tail, according to Nuhaj. "It looked like it had been struggling all night.
"It looked absolutely fine. It had been biting its mouth most of the night. You could see bits of blood around where the teeth would usually sit."
He said there were other people further up the beach who were headed toward the whale soon after he left the beach.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) has been advised but had no comment to make on the beaching.
According to the DOC website Kaikoura is home to the main New Zealand population of sperm whales, including both resident and transient individuals. Adult sperm whales usually reach lengths of 11m-18m.