The Mass Stranding Event of Long-finned Pilot Whales, Globocephalus melas, at Golden Bay in February 2017

The Mass Stranding Event of Long-finned Pilot Whales, Globocephalus melas, at Golden Bay in February 2017


Abstract

More than 400 long-finned pilot whales, Globocephalus melas, stranded in Golden Bay, near Puponga (at the base of Farewell Spit) on 9 February 2017, followed by another pod of 200 on 11 February at Puponga. Although many of these whales were refloated by Department of Conservation staff and volunteers, restrandings occurred over the next 2 days, resulting in the death of a total of 252 whales. The northwestern corner of Golden Bay has long been the site of summer strandings of long-finned pilot whales. Public attitudes to stranded whales changed appreciably in the second half of the twentieth century, and instead of primarily welcoming dead whales as a source of food, oil and whalebone, attempts were made to keep stranded individuals alive and refloat them on the next high tide. The stranding event in February, 2017, although one of the largest on record, was otherwise typical of many in recent years. The reasons for strandings remain largely unknown, but public responses confirm sustained support for marine mammal conservation.

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