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Twelve of a pod of pilot whales which beached at the top of the South Island yesterday have died and the remaining 27 will be euthanised today.
Department of Conservation's Golden Bay conservation services manager John Mason said the whales were spotted just south of Farewell Spit in Golden Bay around lunchtime yesterday.
"They were offshore, about 200-300m off Abel Head which is a point just to the south of Farewell Spit.
"When we left them at dark last night, they were still in water about two to three metres deep."
By this morning, 39 whales were on the beach, of which 12 were already dead, he said.
"We sent our two most experienced staff out there to assess whether refloating them was possible."
The position of the whales on the beach, combined with progressively lower peak water levels at high tide and weather conditions meant refloating the whales was unlikely to be successful, Mr Mason said.
"We decided to euthanise them. They will remain out on the spit. We will move them off the beach above the high tide mark and they'll simply be left there."
- Teuila Fuatai of APNZ