23 Feb 2021

Whales strand again at Farewell Spit

5:00 pm on 23 February 2021

Twenty eight pilot whales that were found stranded at Farewell Spit this morning are still swimming close to shore.

The whales are swimming close to shore, but it's hoped high tide at 8:30pm will help

The whales are swimming close to shore, but it's hoped high tide at 8:30pm will help Photo: PROJECT JONAH

More than 40 long-finned pilot whales were refloated on Monday from the base of Farewell Spit in Golden Bay.

DOC Rangers and about 50 volunteers started searching for the whales on the coast at first light on Tuesday and the pod was found around 7am.

There were 28 live whales and rangers, Project Jonah marine mammal medics and other volunteers have been working to refloat them.

About 21 whales had died.

Project Jonah general manager Daren Grover said the high tide about 8.30pm should help.

Local DOC ranger Andrew Lamason, who is coordinating the operation, said the teams had been herding the whales into deeper water.

"The word coming back from down there is the whales are quite languid, they're not making any great effort to swim off and it's looking like we're probably going into another dry phase of looking after them as they restrand at the same location."

The teams have been clustering the whales in one group, gently rocking them and re-orienting them, and moving them to deeper water in the hopes they will swim off together.

"But it's not looking like that's going to play out," Lamason said.

"I don't think we're looking at any Hollywood ending here.

"The fact that they stayed in the same position overnight, they haven't really moved off, we've got to be realistic about it.

"As the hours go by the prognosis gets worse."

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The whales being refloated on Monday. Photo: Supplied / Project Jonah

Farewell Spit has been a frequent site of whale strandings.

The last mass pilot whale stranding on Farewell Spit was in February 2017 when an estimated 600-700 whales were beached.

About 250 died while the rest were refloated.