Pilot whales stranded in New Zealand

Pilot whales stranded in New Zealand

On the 11th of February, 2017 an estimated 600 pilot whales washed up on the shores of Farwell Spit. The beach sits atop New Zealand's South Island. Volunteers from around the Island and from the Jonah Project, which aims to protect and to guide back whales when beached, worked over the weekend to attempt to save the whales.

What is the cause of the ‘mass beaching’? 

On the 11th of February, 2017 an estimated 600 pilot whales washed up on the shores of Farwell Spit. The beach sits atop New Zealand's South Island. Volunteers from around the Island and from the Jonah Project, which aims to protect and to guide back whales when beached, worked over the weekend to attempt to save the whales. This is one of the largest recordings of Whale beaching’s in modern New Zealand’s history.

Whale Beaching in New Zealand

  • New Zealand being an Island and having a particularly high number of coves and bays means the country is very prone to whale-beachings. The Associated Press reported that New Zealand has one of the highest rates of Whale beaching in the world.
  • The largest recording of Whale Beaching was in 1918, when over 1000 whales were stranded on the scenic shores of Chatham Island. Another notable event was the beaching of 450 whales in 1985. They were washed up on the beaches surrounding Auckland. 

Why did the mass beaching take place?

  • The reason as to why the beaching took place is still yet to be determined but experts have been coming up with many possible theories.
  • Farewell Spit is known all across the nation as a ‘Whale Trap’. It has been witness to several mass stranding's with its geography playing a key role. The Spit has an extensive coastline and its sloping beaches combine to create a sometimes-unnavigable coast, where whales cannot find their way back to the ocean.
  • Other environmentalists hypothesize that it could be changes in the ocean topography and extreme weather beneath the ocean surface. Oil drilling occasionally sends shockwaves across the ocean and can disrupt the navigation capabilities of the pilot whales.

Assessment

Due to all the help supplied by farmers, volunteers and organizations around the Island, over 200 whales were rescued and returned back to the ocean. This shows the concern and care of amongst one of the most environmentally considerate nations in the world.

However, over 250 whales still lost their lives and had to be punctured to ensure they don’t explode, which happens when the gas in the whale’s stomach accumulates.

All in all, this mass beaching was handled well by the people of New Zealand but it is yet to be seen why this took place.

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