Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


A difficult decision has been made to humanely euthanise 12 stranded pilot whales that were alive after a total of 38 stranded at the mouth of the Okuru River south of Haast.

Date:  05 April 2018

This decision was made in consultation with the local iwi Makaawhio, Project Jonah and other whale stranding experts. 

DOC Operations Manager Wayne Costello said the dangerous sea and lagoon conditions meant an attempt to refloat the whales could not safely be made. 

Whales stranded on beach near Haast.
Whales stranded on beach near Haast

“Unfortunately the sea on the West Coast is typically rough and the strong tidal currents in the adjoining lagoon made it impossible for rescuers to safely attempt to refloat the whales, allow them to regroup and to try to get them back to the open sea.” 

“DOC staff working with Makaawhio iwi members and local people considered options for a refloat of the whales but in the end this could not be done without considerable risk to both whales and people.” 

“Those with the whales did all they could to keep them comfortable by getting them upright, cooling them; and protecting them from sun and wind. A big thanks to Makaawhio, Project Jonah and Haast locals who worked alongside DOC staff to help the whales as much as possible. This is a sad outcome.” 

Yesterday, 32 stranded pilot whales were found at the Okuru river mouth,11 of which were alive. It appeared that the whales had been there about 12 hours when found.   

When DOC staff returned this morning, 38 whales were found, most of which were dead.  


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