Aerial footage shows mass pilot whale stranding on Stewart Island

Ismael LynchNov 26, 2018

About 75 were already dead and conservation workers made a decision to euthanize the others due to their poor condition and remote location.

A hiker at Mason Bay on the remote Stewart Island discovered the two pods of the whales, which were located approximately a mile from each other.

"Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low", Ren Leppens of the regional Department of Conservation (DOC) said in a statement.

About 300 whales died on a beach at the northwest tip of South Island a year ago in one of New Zealand's largest recorded mass whale strandings.

"It's always a heart-breaking decision to make", he said.

It was one of four strandings discovered on New Zealand shores over the weekend which stretched DOC resources.

A stranded whale is not a rare sight in New Zealand, where some 85 incidents are being reported every year.

In the far north of New Zealand, eight pygmy killer whales were transported by truck to the east coast from the west where sea conditions were too rough to refloat them.

Hupman said not a lot was known about why whales stranded, but they were usually coming onto the beach for a reason. The biggest recorded pilot whale stranding was an estimated 1000 whales at the Chatham Islands in 1918. Whales use echolocation signals to communicate, but gently shelving waters in the area could distort those signals - a possible cause of strandings in the area.

Although there are many theories as to why whale beachings occur, no one has been able to find a definitive answer.

Many factors could contribute to such whale and dolphin strandings, including sickness, navigational error, geographical features, a rapidly falling tide, being chased by a predator, or extreme weather, the DOC said.

The whales had been 22 miles from Oban, the main town on Stewart Island, which only has around 400 people.

DOC has notified Ngāi Tahu of the Mason Bay stranding and is working with the iwi on what to do next.

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