Stranded false killer whales
Image: DOC


A pod of about 45 false killer whales and bottlenose dolphins stranded on Sunday afternoon at Taylor’s Bay on Mahia Peninsula.

Date:  22 January 2024

They were refloated at high tide at about 3.30pm by the local community.

Unfortunately, the entire pod re-stranded at a remote and inaccessible reef point further south from Taylor’s Bay on the peninsula.   

DOC assessed the whales and dolphins as having an extremely low chance of being refloated and surviving.

DOC Gisborne Operations Manager Matt Tong says they made the difficult decision in conversation with Mahia Māori Committee to euthanise the animals to prevent them suffering overnight.

“Our team found the pod in an extremely distressed and injured state on the rocky reef with some animals already dead. They were clearly suffering and euthanising them was the most humane course of action.

“This is a sad outcome for these whales and the community, particularly after the successful refloating earlier in the day.”

The DOC team have been working with mana whenua at the site and have today undertaken measurements and collected samples alongside members of the scientific community to help build understanding about whale and dolphin populations in New Zealand waters.

Iwi are currently planning for the next stage for the deceased animals.

DOC thanks iwi, mana whenua and the local community, who came to the beach to assist with initial refloating of the whales.

The stranding incident was first reported to DOC at about 2 pm Sunday afternoon. A DOC team travelled from Gisborne to Taylor’s Bay, arriving by 5 pm, by which time the whales had been initially refloated. Unfortunately, the whales re-stranded shortly afterwards.

Whale and dolphin strandings are common in New Zealand. Why they strand is not fully known but factors can include sickness, navigational error, geographical features, a rapidly falling tide, being chased by a predator or extreme weather.

Most of the stranded pod were false killer whales along with one bottlenose dolphin.

False killer whales are a species of dolphin found around the world in temperate to tropical waters. Most sightings and strandings in New Zealand are in the northeast of the country. They look like pilot whales but with a slenderer and tapering head and without white or grey colouring on their sides and top. They are known to have close associations with bottlenose dolphins.


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