Large whale stranded in Canterbury estuary dies

10:07 am on 29 January 2024
Scene at Moncks Bay after whale stranding

The scene at Moncks Bay on Monday. Photo: RNZ / Anna Sargent

A large whale that became stranded on a Christchurch beach on Sunday night has died.

The whale got stuck on a sandbar in the shallow estuary at Moncks Bay in the south-east of the city.

It was hoped the whale could be refloated at high tide shortly before 8am on Monday, but rescue organisation Project Jonah said the whale died at about 3am.

Members of the rescue organisation stayed at the scene overnight, along with the Department of Conservation and Coastguard Sumner, but it was too dark, and the tide too low to look at whether the whale could be refloated.

Department of Conservation Mahaanui District operations manager Andy Thompson said low tide at 2am on Monday would have left the whale struggling to survive.

"We've been out and checked the whale in a little boat and it looks like the whale has passed. It looks like at this stage it's a juvenile fin whale, which is quite unusual, and unusual to have a whale in this location full stop," he said.

"At this stage it's rolling with the tide further and further into the estuary. We're into a recovery rather than a rescue operation."

Thompson said DOC would now work with local iwi for a decision on what to do next; whether to leave the whale where it was or move it.

There had been a lot of interest in the stranding from the public, with lots of offers of support from residents, he said.

"It seems like the second time in a few months that we've had a whale almost in the middle of Christchurch city. So, a lot of people passing by, a lot of interest and of course a lot of emotion around trying to save the whale and do the right thing."

Scene at Moncks Bay after whale stranding

Photo: RNZ / Anna Sargent

Volunteer Jessica Halsey said on Sunday there were lot of people around asking questions, but they had cleared away as it got darker.

Officials had not been able to identify the type of whale it was, or the possible reason it had got stranded, she said.

This whale beaching comes a week after a pod of 45 false killer whales and one bottlenose dolphin were euthanised after becoming stranded near Māhia.

A sperm whale stranded on South Brighton Beach in Christchurch died overnight on 5 November.

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