Coast News

29 Pilot Whales Euthanized After New Zealand Stranding Event

A pod of 29 pilot whales stranded at Doughboy Bay were discovered on 3 November 2015. Because of the remote location on Stewart Island, it was two days before the pair of hikers who found the stranger whales tcould raise the alarm via a local water taxi operator.


Two New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) staff immediately flew to Doughboy Bay to assess the situation. Once there, they found the whales stranded the length of the beach at low tide.

“Eight of the whales were still alive when we arrived,” said Stewart Island ranger Phred Dobbins.

“However, refloating them was not an option given the length of time they had been stranded in hot, dry conditions. With the tide well out, we saw little hope of keeping the animals alive until enough rescuers could be flown in to assist,” he said.

Mr Dobbins added the decision was made to euthanize eight whales.

“Euthanasia is a difficult decision but is made purely for the welfare of the animals involved, to prevent them from prolonged suffering.”

The whales will be left to decompose naturally on the beach, due to the remoteness of the site. Visitors should stay well clear of the carcasses and avoid swimming in the area.

“We’re extremely thankful to the trampers who reported this incident” Mr. Dobbins said.

Under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 it is illegal to take any part of a marine mammal without a permit to do so. Taking of marine mammals or parts (alive or dead) without proper authorization could incur a penalty of up to 6 months imprisonment or a fine up to $250,000.

Fifty one species of marine mammal have been recorded in New Zealand waters (9 seals, 42 whale, dolphin or porpoise). This equates to about 60% of the species known to science worldwide. New Zealand is often referred to as the marine mammal capital of the world for this reason.

The most recent stranding on Stewart Island happening in June 2013 when one pilot whale stranded on Maori Beach.

For more information, click here.

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