Whales found ‘shot in head’ in ‘Ata island

Ma'u ha tofua'a 'e fā he matāfanga motu ko 'Ata' ngali ko ha fana'i. Mahino he fakamatala kuo tuku mai ngali ne mate tofua'a' ni ha ngaahi 'aho pea nau toki hake kuo kamata ke 'i ai hono anga honau sino'. 'Oku fakatotolo 'a e kau polisi' ki he me'a' ni.

Residents of ‘Ata island discovered four dead whales that washed up on their shore last week.

The pilot whales had probably been dead for some time before washing ashore, Yahoo 7 reports.

Witnesses claimed all of the whales had been shot in the head with some washed up on the beach and others on rocks.

‘Ata, which is an hour boat ride from the capital of Nuku’alofa, is used to house prisoners, but no guns are allowed on the island.

Prison officer Kolianita Feke was quoted by the news site as saying: “Early in the morning we walked around the island and saw them, but they were already dead for a few days,” Mr Feke said.

“They were shot with a gun. It looked like they had a hole near the head area, or near their mouth.”

Locals believed the whales may have been calves due to their small size, but Ms Vanessa Pirotta, a PhD Researcher from Macquarie University disagreed.

Pirrota believed the whales could be short-finned pilot whales based on their size, colour, shape and fin location.

“It’s definitey not a new born. They appear to be ranging from sub-adult length to adult,” she said, adding that full grown short-finned pilot whales grow to a maximum length of around seven metres.

Ms Pirotta said pilot whales are social animals that are known to strand, but typically in larger groups.

Yahoo 7 said the whale deaths have been reported to Tonga’s Department of Fisheries and the Deputy Police Commissioner for investigation.

As Kaniva News reported last year, Tonga signed the Pacific Islands Year of the Whale Declaration 2016/17.

Tonga banned whale hunting in 1978 under a royal decree issued by His Late Majesty King Tupou IV. This was four years before the international ban on whale hunting. All Tongan waters are considered a sanctuary for whales.

Whale breeding populations in Tongan waters have increased from 50 to 2000 since the ban.

Tonga is one of the only places where it’s possible to swim with whales between July and October in which a large population of humpback whales gathered around Vava’u and Ha’apai islands.

As Kaniva news reported in 2015, a dead whale washed ashore Kolonga’s beach where the residents managed to remove its teeth.

Further information

Lady ‘Ahomeʻe threatened with legal action over whale teeth by unhappy villager

Tonga’s Sunday law was not breached when residents worked on dead whale

Tonga signs regional pledge to work for a safe future for region’s whales

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