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Whale Strandings - Why Do They Happen?

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Whale Strandings - Why Do They Happen?

Last month's mass stranding event of over 70 pilot whales on a remote Northland beach highlighted New Zealand's position as one of the most frequent sites of marine mammal strandings in the world.

Theories abound as to why whales become beached -- ranging from disorientation to illness to unwillingness to abandon distressed animals -- as well as more controversial notions about disrupted food supplies from overfishing and human-induced noise in the ocean.

What can be learned from these dramatic mass strandings? Are they becoming more frequent? How much evidence is there to back up popular theories about why they happen?

In this Science Media Centre briefing, we bring together a panel of experts on whale behaviour and marine mammal strandings to discuss these questions and update journalists on recent scientific research.


Dr Rochelle Constantine - University of Auckland Rochelle is a Senior Tutor in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. She conducts research on the conservation and behavioural ecology of several whale and dolphin species in New Zealand and the South Pacific. She is also the curator of the National Cetacean Tissue Archive, the second largest in the world, and has around 20 years experience with cetacean research including numerous stranding events and necropsies.

Anton van Helden - Te Papa Anton is Te Papa's marine mammals collections manager. He maintains the national Whale Stranding Database, which chronicles stranding events from historical records through to the present day, and is frequently called upon to identify stranded marine mammals for the Department of Conservation.

NB: Dr Karen Stockin has had to cancel at short notice due to urgent pathology work in her lab from new dolphin strandings. Her PhD student, Emma Beatson, currently researching pilot whale strandings in NZ, will join us on the line to answer any relevant questions that arise.

ONLINE BRIEFING DETAILS DATE: Wednesday 20 October START TIME: 11 am (dial in five minutes beforehand) DURATION: Approx 45 minutes (For those unable to dial in at the scheduled time, an audio recording will be posted to the SMC website shortly after the briefing concludes. Registered journalists will also be able to download presenters' slides from the SMC Resource Library.)

JOINING ONLINE AND BY PHONE: Each presenter will speak for 10 minutes, followed by questions. Journalists will have the opportunity to ask questions in a Q&A session to follow the presentations.

For the simultaneous audio and web conference, follow the instructions below: For the audio portion of the conference: Dial: 0800 084460 Enter the PIN: 185732#

For the online portion of the conference: {Speakers will display slides) Follow this link Enter your full name AND organisation in the box provided and hit GO Further Information For more information, or to arrange interviews with panelists following the briefing, contact the Science Media Centre on tel: 04 499 5476 or email: Notes to Editors

The Science Media Centre (SMC) is an independent source of expert comment and information for journalists covering science and technology in New Zealand. Our aim is to promote accurate, bias-free reporting on science and technology by helping the media work more closely with the scientific community. The SMC is an independent centre established by the Royal Society of New Zealand with funding from the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology. The views expressed in this Science Alert are those of the individuals and organisations indicated and do not reflect the views of the SMC or its employees. For further information about the centre, or to offer feedback, please email us at

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