107 Stranded Pilot Whales Die on New Zealand Beach

107 pilot whales were found beached on Stewart Island in New Zealand on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011 by two hikers. Department Conservation staff members were notified Sunday. Officials made the determination to euthanize the 48 whales that were still alive, as it was not feasible to return the whales to the ocean.

While frightening in conjunction with the frequency of mass bird and fish deaths occurring across the globe since the first of the year, beached whales are not a rare occurrence in New Zealand. Notable incidents include:

11/30/2004 75 Pilot Whales Beached on New Zealand’s North Island

December 2007 – 125 Whales Died After Being Stranded on Colville Beach

12/28/2009 125 Whales Die in New Zealand, 43 Saved

08/21/2010 New Zealand Rescuers Refloat 13 Beached Whales

09/23/2010 56 Stranded Whales Die in N.Zealand

Whales become beached when their navigation system has been disrupted. It has been suggested that seismic activity is a major factor in creating navigational confusion in whales. On February 21, 2011, New Zealand suffered a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, less than 48 hours after the whales had been spotted. So we need to ask, can we predict earthquakes by whale strandings? One of the most interesting treatises on this subject was written by Capt. David Williams of the DeafWhale Society and can be found here.

Let’s now look at the history of earthquakes in New Zealand:

22 Nov 2004 Puysegur Trench 7.2
20 Dec 2007 Gisborne 6.8
15 Jul 2009 Fiordland 7.8
04 Sep 2010 Darfield, Canterbury 7.1
29 Sep 2010 White Island 6.4 0
22 Feb 2011 Christchurch 6.3

Can we conclude that there is a link between whale strandings and earthquakes? Hmmmmm…..

Sources:
107 Stranded Whales Die on Stewart Island
115 Beached Whales, Dolphins Die
New Zealanders Battle To Save Beached Whales
40 Beached Whales Die in New Zealand
Wikipidea – List of earthquakes in New Zealand
Can Whale Strandings Help Predict Earthquakes?
Is New Zealand earthquake linked to the mysterious deaths of more than 100 pilot whales?

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