Around 200 stranded whales die in pounding surf in Australia

A day after 230 whales were found stranded on the wild and remote west coast of Australia’s island nation of Tasmania, only 35 were alive despite rescue efforts that were set to resume on Thursday.

Half of the pilot whales stranded in Macquarie Harbor were believed to be alive on Wednesday, Tasmania’s Department for Natural Resources and Environment said. But the surf took its toll overnight, said Brendon Clark, manager of the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service.

“We triaged the animals yesterday as part of the preliminary assessment and identified the animals that had the best chance of survival out of the approximately 230 stranded. Today’s focus will be rescue and release operations,” Clark told reporters in nearby Strahan.

“We have about 35 surviving animals out on the beach… and the primary focus this morning will be on rescuing and releasing those animals,” Clark added. The whales stranded exactly two years to the day after the largest mass stranding in Australian history was discovered in the same port.

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On September 21, 2020, about 470 long-finned pilot whales were found stuck on sandbanks. After a week of efforts, 111 of these whales were rescued but the rest died.

The harbor entrance is a notoriously shallow and dangerous channel known as Hell’s Gate.

Local salmon farmer Linton Kringle helped with the 2020 rescue effort and said the latest challenge would be more difficult.

“Last time they were actually in port and it was pretty quiet and we were able to sort of take care of them there and get the boats to them,” Kringle said.

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“But you just can’t get a boat on the beach – it’s too shallow, way too rough. My thoughts would be to put her in a vehicle if we can’t swim her out,” Kringle added.

Vanessa Pirotta, a wildlife scientist specializing in marine mammals, said it was too early to explain why the stranding happened.

“The fact that we saw similar species stranded in the same place at the same time could provide an indication that something environmental might be here,” Pirotta said.

West Coast Council community general manager David Midson urged people to keep clear.

“Whales are a protected species even if they are deceased and it is a criminal offense to tamper with a carcass,” the Environment Department said.

Fourteen sperm whales were spotted Monday afternoon on King Island, part of the state of Tasmania, in the Bass Strait between Melbourne and the north coast of Tasmania. Griffith University oceanographer Olaf Meynecke said it was unusual for sperm whales to wash ashore. He said warmer temperatures could also alter ocean currents and shift whales’ traditional diet.

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“They will go to different areas and look for different food sources,” Meynecke said. “If they do that, they’re not in the best physical condition because they might starve, which can make them take more risks and maybe go closer to shore.” The pilot whale is notorious for being stranded en masse is, z reasons not fully understood.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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