Stranded whales found beached in Golden Bay

Last updated 13:00 07/01/2014

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Farewell Spit Cafe and Wharariki Beach Holiday Park owner Dion Leigh had enjoyed watching a pod of pilot whales - but by the next morning they had beached and died.

Thirty-nine whales died in Golden Bay in the first major stranding of the summer. A dozen of the pod were found dead yesterday morning after they stranded at Farewell Spit on Sunday night.

The Department of Conservation later made the "difficult decision" to euthanase the remaining 27 when it became clear an attempt to refloat them would be unlikely to succeed.

Mr Leigh said he'd watched the whales out at sea "having fun" the day before.

"We've just some of the biggest tides of the year. It also means that the tides go out the furtherest, and it was sunny day, so it would have been the worst-case scenario."

The location of the whales high up on the beach, low tides and strong winds would have hampered any refloat attempt, Golden Bay conservation services manager John Mason said.

"We carefully weighed up the likelihood of being able to refloat them and get them safely back out to sea. But our staff, who have extensive experience in dealing with mass whale strandings in Golden Bay, determined that due to various factors it was unlikely they could be rescued.

Mr Mason said by lunchtime yesterday the whales had been euthanased and a lot of tissue samples were taken.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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