Sydney, Australia, Sep 23 (efe-epa).- An additional group of 200 whales has been discovered stranded on the west coast of the Australian state of Tasmania, the local government said Wednesday, bringing the total to around 470 – the state’s largest ever mass stranding.
“From the air most of the additional whales detected appear to be dead, but a boat has headed over there this morning to do an assessment from the water,” incident controller and Parks and Wildlife Service regional manager Nic Deka said in a statement.
The whales were found in Macquarie Harbour 7-10 kilometers away from the 270 pilot whales found Monday spread over three locations – two sandbars and one beach.
Authorities on Tuesday said a third of the first group had died and another 25 had been successfully refloated.
“In Tasmania, this is the biggest [stranding] we have recorded,” said Marine and Conservation Program wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon.
Deka said the additional 200 were only just discovered due to them being “a good distance from where we have been working and not necessarily a place that is obvious for a stranding.”
“We certainly searched up and down the coast. In that part of the harbor the water is a very dark tannin color so we think potentially they stranded, washed back into the water and then have been washed back into the bay, so that made it more difficult for them to be detected earlier in the piece,” he added.
Rescuers are still trying to save the whales, with Deka saying that “mortality has increased, but there are a significant number that are alive so we will continue to work with those.”
Carlyon added that they “have a really good chance of getting more off the sandbar and out through the gates. We are still very hopeful.”
Options for the disposal of dead whales were being assessed Wednesday.
“We can’t leave the whales in the harbor as they will present a range of issues. We are committed to retrieving and disposing but our key priority is to remain focused on the rescue effort,” Deka said.
Carlyon, who on Tuesday highlighted the difficulty in determining the reasons why whales become stranded en masse, suggested that they could have approached the coast in search of food or “simple misadventure” by one or two whales that would have been followed by the rest of the pod. EFE-EPA