Marine conservation experts are on their way to Tasmania’s west coast, where a pod of up to 275 whales has become stranded at Macquarie Harbour.
The pod, believed to be pilot whales, are on a sandbar inside Macquarie heads, a large shallow narrow inlet located about four hours west of Hobart near Strahan.
The ABC reported Guy Grining from World Heritage Cruises flew over the whales in a helicopter and said it appeared some of the animals have already died.
“Yeah, it’s a pretty sad sight, really. There’s probably 25 whales on Ocean Beach just outside the entrance and I reckon there’s probably a further 250 inside the harbour that are stuck on various sandy shoals,” he told the ABC.
Staff from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment and local police are at the scene. A DPIPWE spokesperson told The New Daily additional crews with whale rescue gear would arrive on scene later on Monday.
“Marine experts will assess the scene and the situation and will provide updates as the day progresses.
“If it is determined there is a need for help from the general public, a request will be made through various avenues,” the statement read.
According to DPIPWE’s Marine Conservation Program, Tasmania is the only Australian state where mass strandings of whales and dolphins regularly occur, the ABC reported.
Misadventure, disorientation caused by complex or shallow waterways or rough seas, or a flight response from a perceived threat can be possible causes of mass strandings.
The long-finned pilot whales are one species most frequently involved in mass strandings in Tasmania.
Marine Scientist Dr Vanessa Pirotta described the stranding as a “terrible situation” for these social animals.
“To see a stranding like this is not unusual. It just doesn’t happen everyday. So pilot whales are known to strand in Tasmania. They have done so in the past as well as other areas like Western Australia.
“We typically see these animals when they do come close to shore, [they] become a little bit mixed up with navigation and potentially we’ve seen a case here where they’ve actually gone inland,” Dr Pirotta said.
Dr Pirotta likened the stranding to the whales in Kakadu in the Northern Territory, with one remaining finally making its way back out to sea.
“We create a lot of sound in the environment. We have ship and vessel presence, which can accidentally hit whales. We have fishing gear which can entangle whales. There are a number of things.
“But when a whale does strand in it case, and being over 70 being reported, I mean, this is crazy.
“This is a huge rescue effort. The assessment of the individuals will definitely be taking place now to see if there’s any that can potentially be refloated, as well as looking at their body condition,” she told ABC TV.