Monday, January 16, 2006

5 Pilot Whales stranded in Golden Bay, New Zealand

Whales stranded again in Golden Bay
Jan 16, 2006

Another pod of whales has beached itself on the same stretch of Golden Bay that was the site of a mass stranding before Christmas.

The pod of five pilot whales was spotted on the beach near Puponga Bay on Monday morning.

DOC's Community relations programme manager Greg Napp says by the time Department of Conservation staff got to the site there were only four whales on the beach and three had already died.

Napp says the one remaining whale was able to be refloated and sent out to sea.

The latest stranding is the third in the past month. On New Year's Eve 49 whales died after becoming beached near the tip of Farewell Spit. Eight died naturally, while 41 others were shot by DOC staff as it was considered too dangerous to attempt their rescue.

On December 20, 129 whales stranded on Puponga Beach. Rescuers were eventually able to refloat and save about 100 whales.

No more whales stranded
16/01/2006 17:04:03


There have been no sign of any more whales stranding after Department of Conservation staff successfully re-floated a single surviving pilot whale from a group discovered beached in Golden Bay this morning.


Four whales were found beached at Puponga this morning.


They were near the scene of last month's large stranding. DOC spokeswoman Trish Grant says three of the mammals were dead by the time rescuers got to them but the fourth managed to swim free.


Boats in the area report no sign of more whales heading towards Golden Bay.



Three whales die after stranding
17 January 2006
By TOM FITZSIMONS

More whales have stranded near Farewell Spit, on the northwestern tip of the South Island.


Conservation Department staff raced to Taupata Point yesterday morning after a member of the public reported a pod of five pilot whales had beached there.

When DOC staff arrived, three of the whales were dead and one had disappeared – possibly having refloated itself. Eight DOC workers and local volunteers were able to refloat the remaining whale, which began to swim strongly out to sea.

DOC rangers checked the water for other whales, but found none. The three dead whales, none of which were fully grown, – would be disposed of after consultation with local iwi, a DOC spokeswoman said.

Taupata Point is two kilometres south of Puponga, where last month hundreds of people worked to refloat more than 100 pilot whales after a mass stranding.

A week later 49 pilot whales, believed to be from a separate pod, were shot after stranding at the inaccessible tip of Farewell Spit.

Those whales were left to decay, – more than half being washed out to sea.

Golden Bay DOC community relations officer Greg Napp said it was unclear if the whales were from either of the pods that stranded last month. It was still difficult to understand why they continued to beach in Golden Bay, he said.

"There are tonnes of theories floating around. Some people think they get chased in by predators such as orca.

"Another theory is that when some get sick they strand themselves because they're too tired to swim."

The shallow shelving beaches of Golden Bay and jutting landforms such as Farewell Spit could also be reasons for the strandings, he said.

It was possible the whales were "just trying to swim in a straight line across Cook Strait" when they came upon the land, he said.


Weather blamed in whale strandings

18.01.06 1.00pm


Experts say the run of whale strandings in Golden Bay may be connected to weather patterns.

The latest stranding, on Monday, resulted in three long-finned pilot whales being left to decompose on Farewell Spit.

Mammal collection manager for Wellington's Te Papa Museum, Anton van Helden, said scientists were unsure what caused whales to strand but believed it could be related to weather patterns.

A Tasmanian study showed there was a local correlation between mass strandings and weather cycles, he said.

Individual strandings happened all year round but mass strandings tended to occur around New Zealand during November, December and January, when the sea was warmer, he told the Nelson Mail.

The whales could be driven in while on the hunt for seasonal food, or to give birth, or it could be that one or two animals in a pod were ill and drew the remainder of the mammals inshore, he said.

Meanwhile, overseas experts said a snowstorm might have contributed to the death of nine whales and 24 dolphins after becoming stranded on Cape Cod in Massachusetts last year.

And the United Nations and marine experts said naval manoeuvres and submarine sonars in oceans are a new factor among many threatening dolphins, whales and porpoises that depend on sound to survive.

Researchers found that a stranding in the 1990s of 12 Goosebeak whales in the Ionian Sea, around Greece, coincided with Nato tests of an acoustic submarine detection system.

Other Goosebeaks were stranded off the Bahamas in 2000, and experts linked that to military tests.

Tests on the bodies of seven whales that died near the Canary Islands in 2002 found haemorrhages and inner ear damage, which experts said was caused by high-intensity, low-frequency sonar used in the area.

In Tasmania, disease, the drive to stay with a sick pod member, and confusing underwater topography were all theories regularly put forward to explain the heartbreaking sight of beached whales dying lingering deaths on Australia's beaches.

Animal welfare organisations have been lobbying for years to restrict military sonar, which is used to locate submarines and other underwater objects.

They have documented dozens of cases of mass whale strandings and deaths around the world that they say are associated with sonar blasts, which are thought to disorient marine mammals and can cause bleeding from the eyes and ears.

- NZPA

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