Seis­mic link to whale deaths ‘un­likely’

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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