Majority of stranded whales refloat overnight

The majority of the latest pod of 240 whales that became stranded in Golden Bay last night have refloated themselves, but 17 remain onshore, DoC says.

The Department of Conservation (DoC) called for volunteers as efforts resumed this morning to refloat the pod of pilot whales that beached on Farewell Spit.

Any volunteers wanting to help must wear a wetsuit.

Yesterday evening, it was discovered the new group had become stranded in clusters between Puponga and Pakawau.

DoC spokesperson Herb Christophers said most of those whales refloated themselves on the high tide before midnight, but they are in shallow water so there was some concern they could restrand.

He said they planned to refloat the remaining whales at the next high tide at about 11.50am, and volunteers were working to help the small group.

Project Jonah spokesperson Daren Grover said a spotter plane would fly over the bay today to check on the position of the refloated whales.

That pod was separate from about 400 whales that stranded at Farewell Spit on Thursday.

It was the largest-ever recorded mainland whale stranding in New Zealand.

Only 80 of that group survived, with help from members of the public, and the Department of Conservation (DoC) believes they are now out at sea.

Cause of stranding to be investigated

DoC will try to determine the cause of the mass strandings, and Mr Christophers said samples will be taken from the dead whales.

“By taking biopsy samples and doing analyses, we’re potentially able to isolate the reason for this. It could be as simple as interference with their navigation systems, but that’s, once again, theoretical.

“But it is thought that because of the nature of this whole Farewell Spit being a very shallow sand spit that it does cause echo-location problems for the whales in finding their way out of that area.”