First Mass Whale Stranding Of 2012 Triggers Concerns

Published: Tue 10 Jan 2012 04:41 PM
January 10, 2012
First Mass Whale Stranding Of 2012 Triggers Concerns Of More To Come
Project Jonah remains on high alert following the mass stranding of pilot whales in Golden Bay at the weekend and warns more standings could come.
Despite the successful refloat of 18 long-finned pilot whales on Saturday, Project Jonah CEO Kimberly Muncaster says people up and down the country need to keep a close watch on their local beaches.
“We’re slap-bang in the middle of peak stranding season and the recent stranding in Golden Bay was a poignant reminder to keep watch - not just there, but everywhere.
“This is our busy season and strandings can occur anytime, anywhere across New Zealand. Project Jonah is on high alert to respond to an emergency, but we need the public to be our eyes and ears.”
The team at Project Jonah is manning the 0800 4 WHALE emergency hotline 24-hours-a-day and is ready to swing into action at the first sign of a stranding.
Ms Muncaster warns that although there are some very well known stranding hotspots in New Zealand, stranding locations can’t always be predicted.
In January 2010 Project Jonah volunteers were called to Port Levy on the Banks Peninsula to help rescue 35 stranded pilot whales, it was the first known mass stranding recorded in the area.
“Of course we know the beaches where whales strand year after year, but we’re also aware they could strand somewhere new and unexpected,” says Ms Muncaster.
New Zealand has the highest whale stranding rate in the world. Between August 2010 and March 2011 there were 125 stranding incidents involving more than 500 dolphins and whales.
“While the pod at Golden Bay appears to be home free for the time being, we fully expect more emergencies before the stranding season is over.”
Ms Muncaster says Project Jonah volunteers made a great effort last weekend and their marine mammal medic training paid off.
Project Jonah trains hundreds of Kiwis every year in basic first aid for stranded whales.
The charity relies solely on volunteers and donations to carry out its life saving work.
• Pilot whales are the species most commonly associated with mass strandings in New Zealand.
• They travel in large groups of 10 – 60 and will often merge with other groups to form much larger pods.
• Pilot whales are an oceanic species that venture occasionally into coastal waters.
• Sighting of this species close to shore should be reported immediately to the Department of Conservation on 0800 DOC HOT or to Project Jonah on 0800 4 WHALE.
• Pilot whales can be identified by their dark grey/black colouring, bulbous head and low, long and broad-based dorsal fin.
• Male pilot whales can grow up to 6 metres long.
Project Jonah has been actively saving stranded whales for more than 25 years. Through dedicated training and education programmes, Project Jonah provides an emergency service for stranded whales and dolphins in New Zealand. It relies solely on volunteers and donations to carry out its work.

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