Hundreds of dead birds have washed up in Mount Maunganui and there have been more reports of dead poisonous pufferfish found along the Bay of Plenty coastline.
The Western Bay Wildlife Trust had received "mass" reports of shearwaters, petrels, prions, shags and penguins washed ashore and 38 pufferfish had been collected on Mount Main Beach.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council regulatory compliance team leader Chris Brewer said 18 pufferfish were collected between the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service and Leisure Island on Wednesday and another 20 were picked up between the Mount track and Shark Alley yesterday. Read more: Beachgoers warned not to touch toxic puffer fish washed up at Mount
Brewer said the pufferfish had now been disposed of at the landfill.
The regional council's senior environmental scientist, Stephen Parker, said the council had also received reports of porcupine fish washing up between Bowentown and Waihi Beach.
Parker said it was common for a range of wildlife to wash up on beaches after severe weather and where they washed up was usually determined by the direction of the storm or swell.
"The locations where these fish are washing up is where we would expect them to from the northerly weather patterns we are experiencing," Parker said.
"We advise people and pets to keep as safe distance and not touch the fish as they have a neurotoxin in their skin and intestines."
Tauranga marine ecologist Professor Chris Battershill said he had found about five porcupine fish every 200m along the beach halfway between the Mount and Papamoa which were all "on the small size for their species".
Battershill said it was good the pufferfish had been taken off the beach. "MPI [Ministry of Primary Industries] are screening them for other toxins in case they have succumbed to something other than storms."
Western Bay Wildlife Trust chairwoman Julia Graham said there had been a mass seabird mortality with many dead or dying birds being washed up on the beach.
"[There are] hundreds in the Mount alone but thousands up the coastline. I have been getting reports from Warkworth through to Whakatane of mass deaths of shearwaters, petrels, prions, shags, penguins and pufferfish," she said.
"Many of these are juveniles that cannot survive in this rough weather and episodes of mass die-off are a natural course of events."
Graham said the Western Bay Wildlife Trust and Arrc Wildlife Trust were handling exceptionally high volumes of birds needing care.
"Our volunteers work long hours and do everything that they can but we are extremely stretched and we need your help."
Heidi Omundsen said she had found "tonnes" of spiked pufferfish along Bowentown beach and had warned a boy from picking one up.
"They were along the high tide mark, most of them were by the Bowentown headland," she said.
Omundsen said she had phoned the council who told her staff had been dealing with numerous reports of pufferfish sightings along the region's beaches.
"We are keeping our dog off the beach," she said.
The Ministry of Primary Industries has also been contacted for comment.
How you can help our wildlife?
- Please leave dying birds on the beach.
- If the bird is alert and uninjured, it is best to leave it alone to recover
- If the bird is under threat because of dogs in the vicinity, please use a towel to cover its wings and beak (be careful as sharp beaks can inflict serious injuries) and place it in a cardboard box.
- Birds may be taken to Holistic Vets/Arrc Wildlife Trust at 56 Fraser St between 8am-5pm on weekdays and between 9am-12pm on Saturdays, or contact Western Bay Wildlife Trust.
- Over the weekend volunteers can be contacted until 5pm on their designated after-hours numbers
- Please keep your dogs off the beach