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Community group Climate Justice Taranaki is questioning the cause of death of 12 whales on a south Taranaki beach, saying the strandings could be due to seismic testing.
Last Thursday, eight dead sperm whales were found stranded on Kaupokonui beach and over the weekend a further four were found.
Climate Justice Taranaki Member Lyndon DeVantier says there is “ample research that demonstrates direct and indirect harm on marine mammals from seismic testing”.
“Here, we had the world’s largest seismic testing ship, the Amazon Warrior, blasting off Taranaki from north of Mokau to Whanganui for three months, till around the end of March”.
Department of Conservation spokesperson Ian Angus says since the last seismic survey in Taranaki waters was completed on March 30th, and "given the time that has lapsed, DOC considers it extremely unlikely that seismic surveying contributed to the death of these animals".
"Due to the decomposed state of the whales it was not possible to do full necropsies. Standard samples were taken for scientific analysis but these are unlikely to reveal the cause of death. So, at this stage, we don’t know why the whales died and it is probable that we never will know for sure".
According to DOC, group sperm whale strandings on New Zealand beaches are relatively rare.
There have been 13 known cases of mass strandings of sperm whales since 1895, with the largest in 1974 in Muriwai when 74 sperm whales stranded.