A mixture of low clouds and dense mist prevented a pod of dolphins from being seen on Ruakākā Beach, resulting in a heartbreaking discovery.
Six deceased dolphins were found stranded on the northern point of Ruakākā Beach on Sunday. Locals suspect they went unnoticed due to the dense cloud covering the beach that morning.
Richard Addis discovered the dolphins around 10.30am on Sunday as he drove along the popular fishing spot in his 4WD with his two children.
Addis said the six dolphins, between six and eight feet long, were dead upon their arrival. He described himself and his children as feeling “sorry to see” such a sight.
His 17-year-old daughter had never touched a dolphin, so the grim discovery became a learning experience for her as she discovered the rubbery texture of their skin.
Already, local fishermen and a security guard from Channel Infrastructure were surrounding the dolphins, and a call was made to Project Jonah to notify them.
Addis’ partner Tiffany Judge - who called Project Jonah - said there was a whiteout this morning that would have prevented anyone from seeing them on the beach until it lifted.
A spokesperson from the Department of Conservation (DoC) said they were notified around 11am of the incident. Local hapū were understood to be on-site.
It’s unknown how long the dolphins were stranded. DoC also couldn’t confirm the breed of the deceased dolphins and said further details would emerge over the coming day.
Dolphin strandings have been common over the last few months in Te Tai Tokerau, with a mass stranding of 25 rough-toothed dolphins earlier this year in Ahipara that resulted in a major rescue effort.
In February this year, three pilot whales died after stranding on Ninety Mile Beach. The three whales were buried together in a Far North cemetery dedicated to sea life.
Last month, a distressed bottlenose dolphin was also euthanised on the Tūtūkākā Coast. It had been successfully refloated thanks to Project Jonah and hapū Ngāti Taka, Ngāti Korora and Te Waiariki, but was later found stranded again, with attempts to refloat it proving unsuccessful.
A sperm whale was also found off the coast of Ninety Mile Beach last weekend and was appropriately harvested according to Māori tradition.
Whale or dolphin strandings can be reported to the DoC emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) or 0800 4 WHALE (Project Jonah).