250 pilot whales are killed after stranding on a New Zealand beach

Some 250 pilot whales have died after stranding on a beach in New Zealand’s Chatham Islands, the Department of Conservation has confirmed.

The whales were alive, but unable to be returned to the water most have been euthanized, the Department said, as quoted by the New Zealand news portal Stuff.

“We did not actively refloat whales in the Chatham Islands due to the risk of shark attack to both humans and the whales themselves,” a spokesman for the agency has recounted. “The surviving whales have been euthanized by the professional team to spare them further suffering,” he added.

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The bodies of the cetaceans have been abandoned on the beaches for a natural process of decomposition.

The marine mammal rescue NGO Project Johan has posted on Facebook information about 215 stranded whales, but also acknowledges the impossibility of their rescue.

“The Chatham Islands is a difficult spot for response. They are known for white sharks, inaccessible beaches and a population of less than 800 (…). It was not an option,” the group has noted on Facebook.

The Chatham Islands are a frequent scene of stranded whale deaths. In 1918, the largest such event was recorded with some 1,000 dead pilot whales. In 2018 there were 51 pilot whales killed after stranding in Hanson Bay. Then about 30 were able to return to the sea under their own power.

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In 2017 there were about 600 that stranded in Farewell Spit of New Zealand’s South Island and the Army, volunteers and Project Jonah managed to rescue about 400.

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