Science & Technology

Australia rescues last 20 whales stranded off western coast

Sydney, Australia, Sep 26 (efe-epa) .- Rescuers have saved the remaining 20 of the nearly 500 long-finned pilot whales that were trapped in a bay in shallow waters off the Australian coast, authorities said on Saturday.

With the last rescue efforts on Friday, the volunteers have now released 108 whales in the five days by dragging them into deeper waters with speedboats outside the heads at Macquarie Harbour following their mass stranding on Tasmania’s west coast, an official statement said.

“We only had one whale (stranded) overnight, which is a good result given 20 whales were released yesterday (Friday). It is believed there are no live whales remaining in the harbor,” Marine Conservation Program wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon said in the statement.

The authorities will now focus on the recovering of the whale carcasses with the assistance of aquaculture companies.“Removal of all the whale carcasses will take a number of days and is dependent on wind, tide and current conditions,” the statement said.

The statement asked the public to keep the area free to let the response team members move around safely.

“We know it’s hard for people to watch from afar and thank the community for allowing our teams to focus on the critical work required for the response,” Wildlife service manager Rob Buck said in the statement.

The authorities are considering various ways to dispose of a large number of carcasses because of the potential risks to navigation and attracting predators such as sharks that pose a danger to people. But the most viable option seems to drag them to the high seas.

The environmental tragedy began earlier this week. On Monday, 270 whales were found spread over three locations in Macquarie Harbor – two sandbars and one beach – and on Wednesday morning an additional 200 were found 7-10 km away.

The cetaceans are aquatic mammals with a strong family bond, so many die during stranding due to the stress caused by separation from the group, while others perish due to fatigue or lack of oxygen because they are not able to move.

It is not the first time that these whales were washed up on the beaches of Tasmania, especially in Macquarie Bay, where the last massive incident occurred a decade ago when about 200 were trapped.

Long-finned pilot whales are a protected species belonging to the dolphin family.

Although there are no official figures, scientists estimate that there were about 200,000 specimens of long-finned pilot whales distributed in the North Atlantic and in the southern ocean waters that border Antarctica.

Scientists have not been able to determine the reasons why whales become stranded in shallow waters en masse after deviating from their routes.

However, there is a possibility that they get lost as they are attracted to noise pollution. EFE-EPA


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