Stranded whales back in water

Members of the team attempting to refloat the whales this morning. Photo / Project Jonah
Members of the team attempting to refloat the whales this morning. Photo / Project Jonah
A small pod of pilot whales that beached on Farewell Spit yesterday is back in the water.

The eight whales are what's left in a group of 13 that became stranded on the Golden Bay site yesterday - five died last night and in the early hours.

The large mammals were coaxed into the water at high tide today, shortly after 10am, and are currently floating in shallow water close to the beach.

Department of Conservation officials and Project Jonah volunteers who are at the spit have their fingers crossed the pod will begin swimming back out to sea.

The group of around 39 have formed a human barrier between the whales and the shore, to help keep them in the water.

"As the tide goes out we will walk out with it and move them further down the tidal platform," said John Mason, DoC Takaka conservation services manager.

He said the whales had been grouped together in the waist-to-chest deep water in a bid to make them feel more at ease and encourage them to swim back out to open water.

"It's just getting them to move in a particular direction," Mr Mason said.

"They tend to be disorientated and just mill around or just sit there passively. We have got to get them to move, and that's what's going to happen in the next hour or so, hopefully."

It was estimated nearly 70 whales made their way to the south end of the spit yesterday morning. Although 13 were stranded, 55 managed to make their way into deeper water.

Last week 27 pilot whales had to be put down after becoming beached at the spit. A further 12 had already died from natural causes after being stranded.

- Patrice Dougan of APNZ

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