Rescue efforts underway for hundreds of pilot whales stranded off Australia's coast

James Marshall
September 24, 2020

Rescue efforts to save the remaining pilot whales stranded along the west coast of Australia's Tasmania entered a critical phase Tuesday morning, as experts said one-third of the 270 mammals were likely already dead.

"That's inevitable. But there are still a significant number that are alive, so we'll continue to work with those".

The whales were discovered Monday on a beach and two sand bars near the west coast town of Strahan.

However, Mr Carlyon said numerous partially submerged whales should be able to survive for the several days it would take his team to complete the rescue, which was affected by inclement weather. He added that it was hard to make a more specific estimate of deaths, since the whales were spread out across a large area and some locations were inaccessible.

Marine Conservation Program wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon said progress will be slow, with conditions and the half-submerged whales making rescue efforts tricky.

"It is fatiguing, it is also physically fatiguing and mentally fatiguing, we are dealing with large stressed animals for several days at a time, and it does take an emotional toll sometimes", he said.

"A lot of the rescue efforts will depend on how these animals respond once they have water underneath them", Carlyon said.

They are battling chilly and rainy conditions as well as the harbour's unusual tides, which are dictated by barometric pressure.

More than 450 whales now stranded in Tasmania after another 200 found
Almost 500 pilot whales stranded on Australian island state

Mr Carlyon said that once the whales are returned to the water, the biggest challenge would be herding them out of the sandbar-riddled harbour and back into the open ocean.

A police boat sailing close to the whales who stranded on a sandbar in Tasmania.

A stranding of this size has not occurred in more than a decade, Deka said.

The whales got into trouble on Monday morning but the rescue couldn't begin until marine specialists were able to survey the scene.

One of the largest known mass beachings in the last century was of false killer whales in October 1946, when an estimated 835 of them were stranded near Argentina. In November 2018, around 145 whales were found dead on a remote beach in New Zealand.

Rescuers estimate a third of the whales have died, but more further assessments using aerial infrared imagery will be done on Tuesday.

While in 2018, a mass stranding saw about 145 pilot whales die on Stewart Island.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER