— ‘Heartbreaking’: Over 300 whales die in biggest recent stranding in New Zealand

From RT
February 10, 2017

More photos and videos at RT

‘Heartbreaking’: Over 300 whales die in biggest recent stranding in New Zealand (PHOTOS)

Most of the 415 whales that washed up on a narrow sand spit in Golden Bay, New Zealand died by Thursday night, while scores of volunteers armed with blankets struggled to keep the surviving animals wet to refloat them during a life-saving tide.

The mammals were scattered along the beach in Farewell Spit on the northwestern coast of New Zealand’s South Island, near the settlement on Puponga. Hundreds of volunteers joined the rescue operation, led by the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

Gruesome images showing piles of dead mammals lying mere meters from the water have emerged on social media.

About 30 medics have been dispatched to the site of the stranding to take care of the whales joining the efforts with volunteers in keeping them cool and comfortable and preventing the refloated whales from coming back ashore with impromptu “human chains.” The call for help, posted by Project Jonah of Facebook, has seen a tremendous response from locals, with a road leading to the beach being jammed with cars of helpers, the New Zealand Herald reports.

“This is quite emotional – it’s encouraging to see the number of people who have come out to help … We’re going to give these whales the best chance we can,” said Louisa Hawkes, of the Project Jonah environmental organization, as cited by 1 News, which is running live updates on the large-scale rescue operation.

Messages of sympathy and support have been pouring in on Twitter in response to the tragic scenes.

While the majority of nearly a hundred pilot whales were successfully refloated on Friday morning, there is a high chance that the same whales could get stuck again.

“What they’re doing is milling around so we won’t know until mid-afternoon whether we’re going to have a restranding or not,” Andrew Lamason, DOC Golden Bay operations manager, said as cited by Stuff.

As of Friday afternoon (local time), the whales have been spotted returning back to the beach, with some of them getting caught in the sands again.

The current stranding become the third largest in the recorded history of such events in New Zealand. The biggest stranding, which saw around a thousand sea creatures beached on the Chatham Islands, dates back to 1918. The second largest occurred in Auckland in 1985, when some 450 whales ran ashore.

READ MORE: Over 190 pilot whales stranded on NZ beach, dozens die   in 2015

The Farewell Spit has been known as a notorious trap for the mammals. Last February, about 200 pilot whales got stranded on the beach there.

https://www.rt.com/news/376895-whales-stranded-died-new-zealand/

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— Dead humpback whale washes ashore near Los Angeles

A strange lighthearted title and article in the LA Times attempting to distract the public from yet another dead humpback whale. The Monterey Herald has additional information on the whale.

From Monterey Herald

Dead whale towed off Los Angeles beach ahead of holiday
By John Antczak, Associated Press
July 1, 2016

…Tail markings were compared with a photo database and found that the same whale had been spotted three times previously off Southern California between June and August of last year by whale watchers who gave it the nickname Wally, said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a whale research associate with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

At the time of the prior sightings the humpback was covered with whale lice, which usually means a whale is in poor physical condition, but it was also actively feeding and breaching, she said.

Schulman-Janiger said she noticed healed entanglement scars on its tail indicating that in the past it been snarled in some sort of fishing line. The carcass was in relatively good condition which meant the whale could have died as recently as Thursday morning, she said.

The whale was about 46 feet long and at least 15 years old, meaning it had reached maturity, said Justin Greenman, stranding coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Skin and blubber samples were taken for DNA testing along with fecal matter to be tested for biotoxins.

The experts had hoped to more extensively open up the whale but due to the holiday weekend authorities decided to get it off the beach as soon as possible, Greenman said.

North Pacific humpbacks feed along the West Coast from California to Alaska during summer, according to the Marine Mammal Center, a Sausalito-based ocean conservation organization. Although the species’ numbers are extensively depleted, humpbacks have been seen with increasing frequency off California in recent years, the center’s website said.

Humpbacks, familiar to whale watchers for their habits of breaching and slapping the water, are filter feeders that consume up to 3,000 pounds of krill, plankton and tiny fish per day, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The whale that washed up is not the same one spotted earlier in the week off Southern California tangled in crab pot lines. That animal was identified as a blue whale. Efforts by a rescue crew in a small boat to cut away the line failed, and it disappeared.

From Los Angeles Times

Wally the whale is towed out to sea a day after washing ashore
by Joseph Serna and Alexia Fernandez
July 1, 2016

Video on website

ally the whale was towed into the sea by two Los Angeles County lifeguard boats Friday evening at Dockweiler State Beach, just a day after he washed ashore.

Carol Baker, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors, said the carcass was taken into the water about 6:30 p.m.

”It took a while, but the high tide during the evening helped us into getting it back into the water,” she said.

Thousands of beachgoers were expected to arrive for the long Fourth of July weekend, making it a priority for workers to tow the carcass back into the water were it could properly decompose.

“It’s starting to smell … and decompose pretty rapidly,” said Los Angeles County Lifeguard Capt. Ken Haskett.

The 45-foot-long, 22-ton whale carcass washed ashore about 8 p.m. Thursday,  Haskett said. The male cetacean was between 10 and 20 years old when he died, the county lifeguard department tweeted.

Biologists with the National Marine Fisheries Service visited the carcass before noon Friday and identified the creature as a humpback that was tagged in August. The whale’s name, they said, was Wally.

Already, Wally’s arrival on the beach has created a blubbery spectacle, and county crews say they are eager to have him removed.

Officials asked the public to stay 200 feet away from the carcass Friday, and onlookers crowded along the the edge of the taped perimeter to watch researchers and county work crews deal with the whale.

Lifeguards, working with the county’s Department of Beaches and Harbors, decided to tow the carcass far out to sea, where it will be clear of shipping lanes and where currents will keep it away from the beach. Natural decomposition and marine life will do the rest, Haskett said.

Crews used a tractor to build a sand berm on the land side of the whale, then slowly pushed the berm — and the carcass – into the ocean. From there, a line was tied around the whale’s tail (the strongest part of its body) and boats would pull it at least six miles off the coast, Haskett said.

Towing the carcass avoids the more grisly and gross option of chopping it up and shipping it to a landfill or burying it, officials said. (In April, a 50,000-pound gray whale washed up at San Onofre State Beach, drawing scores of onlookers. The whale ultimately was cut up by excavators and hauled away in dump trucks.)

As workers made preparations to remove Wally on Friday afternoon, 10-month-old Selena De La Cruz sat with her parents and thumped her small fists into the dark, wet sand. She grinned happily, oblivious to the wonder on her parents’ faces as they looked at the dead humpback whale 15 feet away from where they sat.

“It’s already getting a fishy, fishy smell,” said her father, Michael De La Cruz, 25. The girl’s mother, Reina Saucedo, 25, snapped away with her iPhone camera.

“Should we go?” De La Cruz asked.

“No, I want to take one of you two with the whale in the background,” Saucedo said.

The family had driven from Carson to Dockweiler at 7 a.m., and never intended to meet the carcass of a whale.

“We just wanted to get out of the house today,” Saucedo said. “Our daughter loves the beach, and when we saw the whale, we tried showing her, but obviously she doesn’t understand.”

joseph.serna@latimes.com

alexia.fernandez@latimes.com

Twitter: @JosephSerna and @alexiafedz

http://www.montereyherald.com/article/zz/20160701/NEWS/160709776

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-dead-humpback-whale-playa-del-rey-beach-20160701-snap-story.html

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