Beachgoers are being encouraged to upskill for the next whale or dolphin strandings on Bay of Plenty and Coromandel shores.
Nineteen pilot whales died after stranding at Colville Bay last weekend, but the rest of the original pod of 40 to 60 whales were successfully refloated at the isolated beach.
Volunteers, iwi members, the local fire brigade, Project Jonah and the Department of Conservation were part of the
Since 1840, more than 5000 whales and dolphin strandings have been recorded around the New Zealand coast.
The strandings can involve anything from lone whales to hundreds.
The Department of Conservation responds to an average of 85 stranding incidents per year.
Bay of Plenty marine ranger Karl McCarthy told the Bay of Plenty Times strandings could "occur at any time".
"Pilot whales commonly strand but so do many other whale species. Some Bay of Plenty strandings [have] included Gray's beaked whales, pygmy sperm whales and orca."
He said the first thing anyone who came across a whale, dolphin or pod in distress should do, is call the department's emergency hotline, 0800 DOC.
Anyone can help out at a stranding event as long as they are physically able.
"In a stranding event, the Department often calls on Project Jonah volunteers. The public can become involved through doing a Project Jonah marine mammal medic course."
Bay of Plenty-based marine educator Nathan Pettigrew said having trained volunteers made "a massive difference" to the outcome of a stranding.
He said the presence of volunteers would have been particularly helpful at Colville Bay because the pilot whale species "generally strands in big numbers".
When people complete the one-day marine mammal medic course their contact details are recorded on a Project Jonah database.
"They [Project Jonah] basically put a text out to medics in the areas where animals are stranded and say 'all hands on deck for those who are free'.
"The training is so beneficial because there are a lot of things you can get wrong," Pettigrew said.
"Sometimes you'll see people putting water down the blowhole to keep the animal cool but that will basically drown them ... Instead we cover them with wet sheets to keep them cool and calm."
The charity-run course costs $85 for students and $120 for others and participants need to be aged 15 and above.
In 2016 a distressed orca calf in Tauranga Harbour was nursed back to health by the Orca Research Trust after becoming stranded from its pod.
The most recent mass stranding in the Bay of Plenty was in November 2014, when 37 pilot whales died near Whakatāne after multiple consecutive strandings around Ōhiwa Harbour.
Helping at a stranding
• On arrival, report to DoC staff at the stranding base.
• Volunteers in the water must be fit, healthy and able to swim.
• Work in teams and partner up with a "buddy".
• Stay well clear of the tail and mouth – whales can become agitated when stressed.
• Take care not to come into contact with body fluids as marine mammals can carry diseases. Use rubber gloves for handling injured animals and cover any abrasions you may have.
• Attend to your own and your family's needs before those of the animals – drink plenty, take breaks as necessary, be sun smart, stay warm and stay safe.
• Take particular care when in the water – never go beyond your comfort zone and stay visible to boats.
• Advise your GP if you become ill within two months of handling a marine mammal.