Around 90 stranded pilot whales dead off Australia's Tasmanian coast

Katie Ramirez
September 24, 2020

About a third of some 270 pilot whales stranded off Tasmania's remote west coast have likely already died, as authorities enter a critical phase to save the remainder.

The animals are only accessible by boat, limiting the number of rescuers who can reach them. They're scattered along two sandbars and the strip of beach, according to the Tasmanian Marine Conservation Program, which is leading the rescue operation.

The whales were found Monday at three sites off the west coast of the island state of Tasmania, which also saw the stranding of some 200 whales in 2009.

Rescuers could be seen wading in the water tas they attempted to refloat the whales in deeper areas.

About 60 people - including volunteers and local fish-farm workers - are involved in the rescue attempt.

In this handout provided by Tasmania Police, hundreds of pilot whales are seen stranded on a sand bar on September 21, 2020 in Strahan, Australia.

"If the conditions stay the same they can survive quite a few days".

"Whale strandings are not uncommon in Tasmania".

Tasmania is prone to whale strandings, but this is the largest mass stranding on Australia's most southern state in years.

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Mr Carlyon said about one-third of the whales had already died as of yesterday evening and most were inaccessible by boat.

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. "We'll take the animals with the best chance to start with and the ones that we are able to deal with", he said. "They are wet, they are cool, and today we have some really suitable weather for them", Carlyon said.

He said burying so many carcasses would be a big job, as just one whale requires a large burial pit.

Survival rates ultimately depend on how long the whales have spent out of the water, she said.

Carlyon said the cause of strandings are often unknown and could come down to "simple misadventure", or the animals being drawn into the area for feeding on the coast.

"It seems to be a notorious whale trap".

Stockin said that while pilot whales were typically more resilient than other whale species, rescuers faced a race against the clock as the mammals can overheat, their muscles deteriorate and their organs become crushed outside their natural environment.

"Time is never your friend". They wore wetsuits and were working in shifts to prevent hypothermia.

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