230 whales stranded on Tasmanian beach in 'massive event'

Rescue under way days after 14 sperm whales were found beached on an island off the south-eastern coast

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An operation is under way to save about 230 whales that have been found beached on Tasmania’s west coast.

It comes days after 14 sperm whales were stranded on an island off the south-eastern coast.

The pod on Ocean Beach appears to be made up of pilot whales.

At least half are thought to still be alive, Tasmania's Department of Natural Resources and Environment said on Wednesday.

A team from the Marine Conservation Program was assembling whale rescue gear and heading to the area, the department said.

A resident told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the whales were visible near the entrance to Macquarie Harbour and described the stranding as a “massive event”.

David Midson, general manager of the West Coast Council, urged people to stay clear.

“Whales are a protected species, even once deceased, and it is an offence to interfere with a carcass,” the environment department said.

Griffith University marine scientist Olaf Meynecke said it was unusual for sperm whales to wash ashore. He said warmer temperatures could also be changing the ocean currents and moving their usual food.

“They will be going to different areas and searching for different food sources,” Mr Meynecke said. “When they do this, they are not in the best physical condition because they might be starving so this can lead them to take more risks and maybe go closer to shore.”

The beached pilot whales near the entrance to Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania. Getty

Fourteen sperm whales were discovered on Monday afternoon on King Island, in the Bass Strait between Melbourne and Tasmania’s northern coast.

Pilot whales are notorious for stranding in mass numbers, for reasons that are not entirely understood.

Two years ago, about 470 long-finned pilot whales were found beached on sandbars off Tasmania’s west coast in the largest mass-stranding on record in Australia. After a week-long effort, 111 were rescued but the rest died.

Updated: September 21, 2022, 4:17 PM
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