More whales could strand, public asked to monitor beaches

Holiday-goers along the Coromandel Peninsula are being asked to keep an eye out for stranded whales after eleven beached on Saturday.

Up to 1000 residents and tourists descended onto Matarangi beach on the Coromandel Peninsula on Saturday to help rescue a pod of stranded Pilot whales. While seven were saved, four perished - including a calf. The rescue effort took six hours, with boats needed to herd a group of the refloated whales out of the local estuary.

Project Jonah, a group that helps in stranding situations, said it was necessary for those across the Coromandel to keep an eye on the beaches in case more whales strand.

"We do ask people to monitor the beaches along the coast towards the top of the Coromandel and along through Mercury Bay there over the next couple of days," general manager Daren Grover told Newshub.

Grover said there are several reasons why the whales may have come to be on the Matarangi Spit, including after fleeing from predators.

"They may have been ranging close to shore searching for food. They may have been fleeing from predation. There are other types of whales which will eat calves. There could be one or two who were sick."

While the efforts of the community, who brought down buckets and towels to help the marine animals, have been welcomed, Project Jonah says many weren't entirely prepared for how draining it could be. 

"A lot of people who went down first thing. They literally heard that there were whales on the beach, dropped everything and went down. What happened, two to three hours later, these were cold, tired, hungry and thirsty. They had gone unprepared," Grover said.

People should ring the Department of Conservation and notify Project Jonah if they see whales stranding.