Over 200 stranded pilot whales die on Pacific Ocean's remote Pitt Island

The Chatham Island stranding occurred on Saturday, and also involved surviving pilot whales being euthanized.

 Volunteers try to assist stranded pilot whales that came to shore in the afternoon after one of the country's largest recorded mass whale strandings, in Golden Bay, at the top of New Zealand's South Island, February 11, 2017.  (photo credit: REUTERS/ANTHONY PHELPS/FILE PHOTO)
Volunteers try to assist stranded pilot whales that came to shore in the afternoon after one of the country's largest recorded mass whale strandings, in Golden Bay, at the top of New Zealand's South Island, February 11, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ANTHONY PHELPS/FILE PHOTO)

New Zealand's conservation office on Tuesday said all 240 pilot whales stranded on the remote Pitt Island have died, just days after 215 whales died on a beach on nearby Chatham Island.

Dave Lundquist, marine technical advisor at the Department of Conservation, in an email said a technical team on Monday had assessed the situation and euthanized the surviving whales.

"This decision is never taken lightly, but in cases like this it is the kindest option," Lundquist said. The conservation department does not try to refloat whales in the area due to the risk of shark attack to both humans and whales, he said.

Daren Grover, general manager at charity Project Jonah, which deals with stranded whales, said there were also not enough people in the area to help with refloating.

"This decision is never taken lightly, but in cases like this it is the kindest option."

Dave Lundquist

Description of the island

The Pitt Island and Chatham Island make up the Chatham Islands archipelago which lies about 840 kilometers (521.95 miles) off the east coast of New Zealand's South Island. Around 800 people live on the larger Chatham Island, with 40 people living on Pitt Island.

 Dozens of pilot whales lie beached at Farewell Spit on the northern tip of New Zealand's South Island, in this February 13, 2015 handout courtesy of the Department of Conservation. Picture taken February 13, 2015.  (credit: REUTERS/DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS) Dozens of pilot whales lie beached at Farewell Spit on the northern tip of New Zealand's South Island, in this February 13, 2015 handout courtesy of the Department of Conservation. Picture taken February 13, 2015. (credit: REUTERS/DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Grover said given the position of the archipelago near where subtropical and sub-Antarctic oceans meet there was an abundance of sea life in the area which attracted the likes of whales.

The Chatham Island stranding occurred on Saturday, and also involved surviving pilot whales being euthanized.

Nearby New Zealand and neighboring Australia are hot spots for mass whale strandings owing to large colonies of pilot whales living in the deep oceans surrounding both island nations. The cause of whale stranding is unknown.