Pilot whales refloated after stranding

By Paul Harper

Seven of the stranded whales died overnight. Photo / Richard Robinson
Seven of the stranded whales died overnight. Photo / Richard Robinson

Eighteen long-finned pilot whales stranded on Farewell Spit in Golden Bay have been successfully refloated this morning.

Project Jonah chief executive Kimberly Muncaster said the whales were put back into the water on high tide around 9.00am.

"It is a relief to have the whales back where they belong," Ms Muncaster said.

"At the moment they appear disoriented, but that is not unusual when whales have been on dry land for some time. Hopefully they will gather strength and stability very soon and make their way out to the open ocean."

Project Jonah's Facebook page urged locals to keep checking their beaches and bays throughout the next week as the risk of restranding is high. However it seems that it's good news for now with the whales "heading in the right direction again. They seem to be a little confused and have given us a fair few scares. Gentle coaxing in the water and turning them back in the right direction is working for now."

A group of 25 whales stranded around 2pm yesterday at Triangle Flat. The whales were part of a pod of around 70 which were seen close to the beach earlier the day.

Seven of the whales unfortunately died.

Department of Conservation staff, Project Jonah volunteers and the public worked to keep the whales alive overnight and refloat them this morning.

DOC Golden Bay area manager John Mason said overnight conditions were working in the whale's favour.

"It's been dark which has been good for them, they suffer during daylight, if the sun's out they get sunburnt so it would have been cool last night, and it would have been dark so the whales had the best possible conditions to spend the night on the beach."

Ms Muncaster said the refloated whales "are not out of the woods yet".

"In their disoriented state they can easily restrand, so Project Jonah medics in the area and locals should remain on high alert for the next few days and keep informed through the Project Jonah website."

She asked locals to keep an eye out for the whales and call the Department of Conservation if any are seen to restrand.

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