Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is a NZME. News Service journalist based in Auckland.

Dead whales wash up on West Coast

The Cuvier's beaked whale that washed up at Greymouth. Photo / Ron Hazeldine, Dept of Conservation
The Cuvier's beaked whale that washed up at Greymouth. Photo / Ron Hazeldine, Dept of Conservation

Three dead whales have washed up on West Coast beaches in as many days.

A local marine scientist said it was unusual for whales of different species to wash up so close to one another, but the deaths were not believed to be connected.

Curious locals were drawn to the beach at Greymouth after the 6m carcass of a Cuvier's beaked whale washed up on Saturday morning.

The next day, a 15m sperm whale washed up halfway between Greymouth and Hokitika. And today, a small 2-3m whale or dolphin of unknown species washed up near Westport.

Hokitika-based Department of Conservation marine scientist Don Neale said it was uncommon for three whales to wash up so close to one another in such a short space of time.

"It's not unusual to have whales washed up on the beaches on the West Coast - we do get anything between a couple and half a dozen a year of various species," he said.

"But when they come up one after the other, it's a little bit less usual."

Mr Neale said it was unlikely the deaths were directly connected, and they could be a coincidence.

Big storms had lashed the coast last weekend, which may have thrown the whales around and led to their deaths.

The whales had been be inspected and photographed, but there were no obvious signs of ship strike or other external injuries.

"We don't know at this stage what the cause of death is, and it's possible we may never know entirely what caused their death."

Local iwi Te Runanga o Ngati Waewae had been notified and was working to recover the jawbone from the sperm whale.

The carcasses would either be buried or left to decompose on the beach.

Mr Neale reminded people not to touch the whale carcasses, and to report any sick or dead marine mammals to conservation staff.

"We don't mind people coming along and having a look at the whales, but especially with the sperm whale being worked on down there, it would be really good for people to keep their distance."

- APNZ

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