Whale-saving course in Nelson

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Locals had a whale of a time at Tahuna Beach on Sunday, but Project Jonah’s interactive session was also teaching them some vital skills.

Whale and dolphin strandings are a common occurrence in New Zealand, with Golden Bay being a global hotspot, especially for Pilot Whales.

Project Jonah is a national charitable organisation that works to protect marine mammals and last Saturday they began their Marine Mammal Medic training course in Nelson.

The one-day course is run throughout the country during summer and teaches volunteers the essential skills needed to keep dolphins and whales alive when they become stranded, as well as keeping themselves safe from exposure and the large mammals they are helping.

“Once you complete the training you’ve got a basic understanding of what to do, how to look after those animals and how to keep them alive. We don’t use a lot of expensive technology, [or] expensive equipment, it’s a case of using nature as best we can,” says Project Jonah’s general manager Daren Grover.

Saturday’s course included four hours of theoretical learning before the 19 volunteers were taken down to the beach for some hands-on skills. Once they have completed their training they become part of the Project Jonah regional database, and should a stranding occur in the Nelson/Golden Bay region the organisation is able to send out a single text to its hundreds of volunteers, mobilising as many as possible to the strand site.

While their Marine Mammal Medic training courses will be running around the country until April next year, local volunteer group, Paddlers for Marine Mammal Protection, played an instrumental role in the additional public information day at Tahuna Beach on Sunday. Project Jonah volunteers and members of Paddlers for Marine Mammal Protection provided interactive demonstrations using a life size inflatable whale and dolphin, as well as fund-raising for the charitable organisation.

For more information about Project Jonah’s whale rescue course, go to the website at projectjonah.org.nz/medic. A second course will be held in Nelson in February next year.