New Zealand: massacre of pilot whales without reasons



by LORENZO CIOTTI

New Zealand: massacre of pilot whales without reasons

In New Zealand, thirty-one pilot whales died after stranding at a beach known for cetacean deaths, as reported by BBC. Last year, rescuers managed to rescue 28 long-finned pilot whales from a flock of about 50 that ran aground on the beach.

The worst stranding occurred in February 2017, when nearly 700 whales ran aground, killing 250 whales. Officials said the pack was first spotted yesterday after it ran aground on three kilometers of Farewell Spit, a narrow strip of sand at the northern end of Golden Bay in New Zealand's South Island.

Rescuers managed to save only three of the five whales that had survived the night. Pilot whales can be seen off the coasts of Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The population of this group is estimated to be over 200,000 individuals.

The second population is much smaller and inhabits the North Atlantic Ocean, ranging from South Carolina in the United States to the Azores and Morocco in the south and from Newfoundland and Greenland to Iceland and northern Norway in the north.

It is also present in the western half of the Mediterranean Sea. The population of G. macrorhynchus is larger. It is found in the temperate and tropical waters of the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The population in the western Atlantic slightly overlaps with that of G.

melas. There are 150,000 individuals in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean. In the western Pacific it is estimated that more than 30,000 animals live off the coast of Japan. Both species prefer deep waters. The species has been hunted for many centuries, mainly by Japanese whalers.

In the mid-1980s, the Japanese were killing 2,300 animals a year. This number dropped to 400 per year in the 1990s. Harpoon killings are still relatively common in the Lesser Antilles, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. As these catches are not recorded we do not know exactly how many catches are made each year and the effect they have on the local population.

Both species are killed each year by the hundreds or perhaps thousands along the coastline and in deep sea nets. The prospect of long-term survival for both species is well secured. In fact, in its Red List of Threatened Species, the IUCN classifies both species as low-risk, dependent on conservation.