Seismic link to whale deaths ‘unlikely’
It is ‘‘extremely unlikely’’ seismic surveying off the coast of Taranaki contributed to the death of 12 sperm whales that washed ashore, the Department of Conservation says.
Last Thursday, eight sperm whales were found on Kaupokonui Beach, South Taranaki, and another four were discovered in the same area at the weekend.
The whales were predominantly males, of different sizes up to 14 metres in length.
DOC marine species and threats manager Ian Angus said the latest seismic survey in Taranaki was completed on March 30.
‘‘Given the time that has lapsed DOC considers it extremely unlikely that seismic surveying contributed to the death of these animals,’’ Angus said in an emailed statement.
Angus said a veterinary pathologist from Massey University estimated the whales had been dead for approximately 36 hours when he arrived last Friday.
‘‘Due to the decomposed state of the whales it was not possible to do full necropsies,’’ Angus said.
‘‘Standard samples were taken for scientific analysis but these are unlikely to reveal the cause of death.
‘‘So, at this stage we don’t know why the whales died and it is probable that we never will know for sure.’’
Angus said mass strandings of sperms whales happened from time to time but were rare.
‘‘There have been 13 known cases of mass strandings of sperm whales since 1895, with the largest in 1974 in Muriwai when 74 sperm whales stranded,’’ he said.
‘‘The reasons for these strandings are unknown.’’
Since the whales were discovered, Ngati Tu iwi members along with DOC staff and a team from Nga¯ti Wai, in Whangarei, have been working to remove the bones for use in carving.
The group has been stripping away decaying flesh from the bones, with the carcass remains being buried in a large hole dug in the sand.