Its Not Over Yet! The Cockle Die-Off Continues

The new cockle die-off event is still in progress, with rotting cockles beginning to create a stink on the Omaha side of the harbour.

A dead and gaping cockle still embedded in the sand is slowly spreading its shells apart as the muscles which hold the shells together gradually fail.

A dead and gaping cockle still embedded in the sand is slowly spreading its shells apart as the muscles which hold the shells together gradually fail.

Following the massive die-off of 80% of the Whangateau cockles in 2009, a new cockle die-off event was first noticed on 28th March 2014. Mahurangi College students were carrying out a regular monitoring of the Horseshoe Island shellfish transects when unusually large numbers of recently dead cockles were noticed by Karen Tricklebank and Roger Grace.

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“Houston, we have a problem.” A case of cockle déjà vu.

It’s happening again! Our wonderful cockles in the Whangateau Harbour are dying in what appears to be an event similar to that in 2009 when 80% of our cockles died.

A dead and gaping cockle lies moribund and stinking on the sand surface over the cockle beds off Lew’s Bay in the Whangateau Harbour.

A dead and gaping cockle lies moribund and stinking on the sand surface over the cockle beds off Lew’s Bay in the Whangateau Harbour.

In the summer of 2009 Whangateau Harbour residents noticed an awful smell coming off the harbour flats. It soon became obvious that it was caused by many thousands (in fact millions) of dead cockles rotting in the sun.

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Successful Shellfish Survey Day at Whangateau Harbour

 

Sieving the sand out of the samples to enable the shellfish to be counted and measured.  Eagleray feeding holes filled with water were handy on the upper shore.  Without them samples would have to be carried several hundred metres to water for sieving

Sieving the sand out of the samples to enable the shellfish to be counted and measured. Eagleray feeding holes filled with water were handy on the upper shore. Without them samples would have to be carried several hundred metres to water for sieving

The annual survey of shellfish, particularly cockles, on two transects east of Horseshoe Island in the Whangateau Harbour, was successfully completed on Friday 28th March by ten students and several adult helpers. Mahurangi College science teacher Wendy Dunn organized the students into pairs for the task. As the shellfish beds in the Whangateau Harbour are currently closed, a special permit is required to carry out the surveys.

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