An massive effort to save a pod of rare pygmy whales has had a tragic ending with five of the six creatures refloated yesterday re-stranding on another beach further north.

Department of Conservation spokeswoman Abigail Monteith said the difficult decision had been made to euthanase the five pygmy whales.

DoC staff and other whale rescue experts, who arrived at Great Exhibition Bay about 11.15am today, would continue to monitor one pygmy whale which remained out at sea.

The mammals, which despite their name are a rare type of oceanic dolphin, first stranded near the top of Ninety Mile Beach on Sunday night.

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They were transported on a convoy of trailers to Rarawa Beach on the opposite coast, where it was hoped calmer conditions would improve the chances of a successful refloating, on Monday evening.

More than 300 people — including DoC staff, locals, schoolchildren, iwi and whale rescue groups — descended on Rarawa Beach to help release the eight whales yesterday. Six made it out to sea but two were euthanased after repeatedly re-stranding.

Great Exhibition Bay is a long sweep of sand on the east coast between Rarawa Beach and the entrance to Parengarenga Harbour, which is just south of North Cape.