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Conservation Minister Maggie Barry has thanked DOC staff and volunteers helping to re-float pilot whales after a mass stranding at Farewell spit overnight.

“More than 400 pilot whales stranded overnight in one of the largest recorded mass strandings in New Zealand history. Sadly it has been confirmed most have died. DOC staff and volunteers re-floated about 100 on this morning’s high tide but unfortunately 50 of them have since re-stranded,” Ms Barry says.

“I’m advised there won’t be another attempt to re-float the whales on tonight’s high tide because it is too dangerous for people to be close to the whales in the dark.”

“Project Jonah, local volunteers and DOC staff, led by Andrew Lamason, have been working hard to save the whales and I really want to commend them for their heroic efforts.”

“It is terribly sad to see these magnificent creatures in this state and distressing and traumatic for the volunteers to see the hundreds of dead whales on the beach.”

“Around 300 volunteers are still on the beach and will look after the whales until nightfall. Hundreds of volunteers are set to return to the area tomorrow when another attempt to re-float the whales will be made,”  Ms Barry says.

This is the third largest recorded whale stranding in NZ since data started being collected in the 1800’s. 1000 whales were stranded on the Chatham Islands in 1918 and 450 in Auckland in 1985.

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