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Wednesday, September 28, 2022
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200 Beached Whales Die on Australian Coast


Beached Whales Die | Image by ABC

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A total of 32 beached pilot whales were re-floated and released into deep water from Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania’s west coast on September 22, but more than 200 could not be rescued and died on the beach.

Two of the 32 whales became stranded again, and a Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (NRE Tas) team used the same technique to re-release them into deep waters.

“There are three remaining whales alive on the beach which the rescue crew was unable to access due to the challenging location and tidal conditions,” according to the DNRET press release. “The rescue team will attempt to access these whales again tomorrow morning.”

More than 50 Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (NRE Tas) staff, volunteers, and local aquaculture company personnel assisted in the whale rescue.

According to NRE Tas Incident Controller Brendon Clark, the massive effort by staff and volunteers was accomplished despite the problematic west coast conditions. The rescue operation was impeded by shallow waters and soft sand on Ocean Beach, which made it difficult to access certain areas and maneuver vehicles and equipment.

“Over the coming days, the team will focus on the removal and disposal operations of about 200 deceased whales,” Clark said. “Weather conditions will determine the timing for the removal of the whales.

“We’ll continue to keep the community informed about the response and next steps,” he added. “While the rescue component of a stranding can be completed in initial days, disposal of carcasses can take significantly more time,” he said.

“Ocean Beach remains closed at the moment, but we will reopen it to public access as soon as possible,” Clark said. A community meeting will be held in Strahan on September 23 to keep area residents informed of the progress.

What caused the whales to strand is unknown and may never be known. The NRE Tas is conducting post-mortem examinations with the help of a pathologist from the department’s Animal Health Laboratories.

The whales were discovered on the beach two years to the day after the most significant mass stranding in Australian history was found in the same harbor, NBC News reported.

On September 21, 2020, 470 long-finned pilot whales were discovered stuck on sandbars. Rescuers were able to save 111 of the whales during a week-long effort, but the rest died, according to NBC.     

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