At least ten stingrays have been found lying dead on Blackpool Beach with their tails cut off, shocking local Waiheke residents and prompting a school group visiting Piritahi Marae to perform a karakia and bury the animals.
“I was sickened. It’s the most disgusting thing to see,” said Gail Prentice, who found the rays while walking her dog on the beach last Wednesday morning.
“I could see something white lying on the sand, but there were several of these things, so I walked closer to see what they were.” Gail said. “They were the rays, belly-up. It looked like they had been in a net or a set line, because they were in a line going from the beach out to low-tide.”
The school children were visiting Waiheke on a cultural tourism course about guardianship and preservation of New Zealand’s natural resources.
Huhana Davis, who was leading the young adults, said the group was on its way to collect some cockles when it came across the rays. “It looked like a whole family. They had their tales chopped off and were just thrown in the water.
“Our students – these are 18 year olds – were quite disturbed. It’s just a waste.
“The other issue which is important is that the whai, which in Maori means stingray, is the guardian of our island, and the manta rays are our guardians in the water.
“So here’s a whole whanau [family] of stingray that had been mutilated and killed and wasted.”
It is still unclear how many rays in total were left on the beach. Gail originally thought there were only four or five rays after seeing those with their white undersides showing.
“When I was walking back from the beach, I realised there were a lot of others up at the shore line that were the right way up, but because of their camouflage you don’t see them so well.
“I saw eight, but there were more than that because the gulls were also going mad at various parts of the water’s edge.”
Both women spoke of their unease at the practice of removing the tails and leaving the animals behind.
“If we’re going to be preserving our seas and our seashore and our seabeds, and our foreshore, and protecting our marine life, to whoever’s doing this: it’s not acceptable,” Huhana said.
Gail, who contacted the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) to report the dead animals, agreed. “I first saw this happen on Red Beach when I was about eight or nine, and I was horrified as a child. To think it’s still going on 50 years later is just shocking. People should know better.”
A spokesperson for the MPI could not confirm they had received any complaints, but said: “Stingrays are an incidental by-catch in line fishing and can generally be released unharmed. Net entanglement can also occur and release of these rays can be difficult. MPI encourages responsible fishing through education.”
Stingrays are not a protected species and there is no bag limit on the number that can be caught by amateur fishers. • Richard Jones