Stranded whales refloated

Last updated 12:17 20/01/2014
Farewell Spit whale stranding
Project Jonah

HEARTBREAKING SIGHT: About 62 whales beached at Farewell Spit on Saturday. By last night, 12 were already dead and almost 50 were back on the beach after being refloated earlier in the day.

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Rescuers have successfully refloated 46 pilot whales stranded at Farewell Spit.

Forty nine pilot whales re-stranded overnight after Department of Conservation rangers, Project Jonah and other volunteers spent the weekend trying to get them safely out to sea.

Three died - two of them this morning.

The pod was now swimming out to deeper waters, said Project Jonah, who along with DOC staff were monitoring the whales' movement.

Apart from this pod, more than 60 pilot whales have already died or been put down on the stretch of Golden Bay coastline this year.

Marine mammal specialist Anton van Helden said Farewell Spit was a classic whale trap with a large tidal flat behind the 25km spit.

Whales quite often came into shallow water to give birth or to follow prey. There were many reasons for stranding and little that could be done to prevent it.

"People have put up bubble streams and clanked metal to try and scare them off but it was just adding stress."

He said strandings were common and New Zealand had quite a good record of getting them back into the water.

About 680 whales have died in strandings at Farewell Spit in the past 11 years.

One of the biggest single strandings happened in 1992 when 420 whales died.

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- The Nelson Mail

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