Environment

Tasmanian authorities tow whale carcasses out to sea

Sydney, Australia, Sep 28 (efe-epa).- Australian authorities on Monday continued to tow out to the high seas the carcasses of some 380 pilot whales that died after becoming stranded last week in a remote area off the island of Tasmania.

“Works started yesterday (Sunday) and will take a few days. (It) will depend on the tide, winds and other conditions in the area,” a spokesperson of the Tasmanian state government, which is coordinating the operation, told EFE.

A group of state-owned and private vessels will tow the dead pilot whales into the open sea, where they will be released over several days.

Tasmanian authorities, who successfully rescued 110 of the nearly 490 long-finned pilot whales stranded in Macquarie Harbor since Monday, issued an alert because of the potential risks to navigation and of attracting predators – such as sharks – that pose a danger to people.

The environmental tragedy began early last 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 between 7-10 km (4-6 miles) away.

The cetaceans, which can grow to a length of 6-7 meters (20-23 feet) and weigh up to 2.5 tonnes, have strong bonds, 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.

It is not the first time that whales have stranded en masse on the beaches of Tasmania, especially in Macquarie Harbor, where the last massive incident occurred a decade ago when about 200 beached.

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 exact reasons why whales become stranded in shallow waters after deviating from their routes. EFE-EPA

wat/pd/tw

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