Horror as nearly 200 stranded pilot whales found dead on beach in 'unusual' stranding

Yesterday, a pod of about 230 whales were stranded on Ocean Beach, near the town of Strahan, and some were also stranded on land at Macquarie Harbour. As of Thursday, only 35 whales have survived and rescue efforts continue to keep the whales alive.

Brandon Clark, an incident controller, confirmed that the majority of the whales had died while speaking with the Guardian. 

He said: “Unfortunately, we do have a high mortality rate out on this particular stranding.”

Mr Clark added: “We positioned them overnight … so that we could assess them this morning. 

“We’ve got approximately 35 surviving animals out on the beach – the primary focus this morning will be on the rescue and release of those animals.

“Yesterday was triaging – identifying those animals that had the best chance of survival. Those animals that were alive, we kept them comfortable, we provided them whatever shade we could, moisture, etc.”

Mr Clark has said the exposed conditions of Ocean Beach have contributed to the high death rate and said the environmental conditions made the rescue mission much more difficult compared to a stranding which happened two years ago.

In 2020, 470 whales were trapped at Macquarie Harbour, considered the worst standing ever to occur in Australia. 

More than 380 whales died but 100 survived. 

Vanessa Pirotta, a wildlife scientist, said in a BBC interview that the similarities between the 2020 standing and this one are “unusual” and concerning as they happened at the same location and same time of year.  

However, the reasoning for the whale standings remains a “mystery” according to the scientist, as well as why so many whale standings happen in Tasmania.

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On Wednesday, Tasmania’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment said the rescue mission would be “complex” due to the location.

Macquarie Harbour is a shallow but large inset in a rural area, which meant many of the whales were expected to die at night. 

Yesterday, locals in the area were seen pouring buckets of water on the whales and covering them with blankets to try and keep them alive. 

However, Mr Clark says they are now limiting volunteer involvement now to only those with marine wildlife training. 

He said: “We appreciate all of the offers and all of the goodwill that is expressed from the community. It’s more a matter of having a safe working environment and skilled and trained personnel.”


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