Twenty-eight pilot whales and three dolphins have been euthanised by DOC staff confronted with a mass stranding on a remote Rēkohu/Wharekauri/Chatham Islands beach over the weekend.
In total, 97 pilot whales and three dolphins died in the stranding which was notified to DOC staff around noon on Sunday.
DOC Biodiversity Ranger, Jemma Welch said due to difficulties caused by the remote location and a power outage, it was 3pm before rangers arrived at the scene at Waitangi West Beach.
“Only 26 of the whales were still alive at this point, the majority of them appearing very weak, and were euthanised due to the rough sea conditions and almost certainty of there being great white sharks in the water which are brought in by a stranding like this,” Ms Welch said.
She said a further two whales had stranded by Monday morning when a team of DOC staff made a follow-up visit to the site, which were also then euthanised.
Hokotehi Moriori Trust and Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Iwi Trust were notified and representatives joined DOC staff on Sunday where they performed a karakii/karakia to honour the spirit of the whales, which will be left to decompose naturally.
DOC says mass strandings are reasonably common on the Chatham Islands with up to 1000 animals dying in a single stranding in 1918.