Boaties beware as dead whale drifts north of Marlborough's d'Urville Island

A large dead whale, spotted adrift south-west of d'Urville Island, appears to be heading north.
Peter Connolly

A large dead whale, spotted adrift south-west of d'Urville Island, appears to be heading north.

A large whale carcass floating in waters north of Nelson remains a floating hazard with reports of it moving further out to sea.

The 15-metre whale - thought to be either a blue, fin or sei species - was spotted by Nelson fisherman Peter Connolly while on a recreational excursion off the western side of d'Urville Island, at the top of the Marlborough Sounds.

At 4pm on Tuesday, the whale was known to be two miles west of Bottle Point, off d'Urville Island, drifting slowly to the west.

By 9.15am on Wednesday morning, it had been spotted west of Stephens Island, heading in a northerly direction.

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Department of Conservation communications spokesperson Simon Bayly said as long as the whale was floating they wouldn't be doing anything, but people should be mindful and report any sightings.

Vessels in the vicinity of Tasman Bay and d'Urville have been made aware of the whale's presence, with navigation warnings sent on local marine radio channels. 

Among those tracked near the whale's drift zone was the 18,335-ton container ship ANL Echuca, on its way to Port Nelson at around 10:30am.

Port Nelson harbourmaster Dave Duncan said a navigational warning had been put out on Tuesday and following discussions with Marlborough harbourmaster Luke Grogan a further warning would go out on Wednesday.

"You'd have to work hard to hit the thing because it's a very big object floating well above the surface.

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"It's a tragic thing for a whale [but] it looks like it may have been fully grown and lived a great life," Duncan said.

"The people that I have spoken to that have seen it up close say there is no apparent damage on it other than by a shark so maybe it's old age, but it's a big beautiful beast in the water and people need to be careful around it."

While at this stage the whale seemed to be heading towards the Tasman Sea or South Taranaki Bight, Duncan said the weather and currents would determine the whale's final location.

"That's what we're interested in – if it does beach, where that will be and when? We think with the northerly winds coming in it may come back through [Tasman] bay, so we're just keeping a watchful eye."

Grogan said the "collective network" of harbourmasters and Maritime NZ staff had been monitoring the dead whale's progress since Tuesday.

As well as updating the navigation warnings, Grogan had been discussing with DOC in regards to what else can be done in terms of tracking the whale.

"The original expectation was it might beach on d'Urville Island - that hasn't happened."

"Part of the radio messaging we'll do is to request that boaties who do happen to see it just call in to us and let us know where they saw it and the GPS position, hopefully we can monitor it that way."

Grogan said that boaties wanting to fish near the whale should be aware of any safety and cultural aspects when approaching it.

"We get the odd call about something like this be it a whale or some other sea creature – we have had it before but this is by far the largest that I'm aware of and it's quite a significantly sized carcass, I understand."

Meanwhile,  DOC has not received any reported sightings of the pilot whales seen in the Waimea Estuary on Tuesday or leopard seal on Tahunanui Beach, but were still keen to hear from anyone who had seen them. They can be reported on 0800 DOC HOT.

 - Stuff

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