More than 200 whales are stranded on a beach on the west coast of Tasmania raising alarms for marine conservationists about the surprising behaviour.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania confirmed conservationists were on their way to Ocean Beach near Macquarie Harbour to help the roughly 230 mammals which appear to be pilot whales.
The situation is becoming grave with the Department revealing only about half the animals were alive and Tasmanian Police have since shut the roads around the beach.
“Marine wildlife experts will assess the scene and the situation to plan an appropriate response. Stranding response in this area is complex,” a statement from the Department read.
“If it is determined there is a need for help from the general public, a request will be made through various avenues.
“Whales are a protected species, even once deceased, and it is an offence to interfere with a carcass.”
A Huon Aquaculture worker who was one of the first people on the beach told the Daily Telegraph there were at least 10 baby whales among the stranded animals.
“Fairly small ones, probably a metre and a half long, maybe 150kg … they’re scattered in between the big ones,” Linton Kringle told the publication.
“Including the bigger ones we counted 230, there’s probably a few more, it’s difficult to get an accurate count at the moment.
“There’s quite a few of them still alive, it’s been such a hard place to get them back out at the moment.”
Mr Kringle said rescuing the whales would be a highly delicate operation with the beach making it hard for boats to access and the fragility of the animals’ skin meaning they get easily sunburnt.
“It’s a matter of keeping sheets on them and keeping them wet and making sure their blow hole’s not obstructed so they can breathe,” Mr Kringle said.
“I reckon people will be working through the night, whether we can refloat any is going to depend on the tides and how much the waves ease up, there could be people there all night.”
The incident comes on the same beach and exactly two years after the largest whale stranding in Australia’s history where 470 pilot whales got stuck with almost 400 dying in similar circumstances.
According to Britannica, scientists have not been able to agree on a reason why schools of pilot whales suddenly beach themselves.
The beached pilot whales come just two days after 14 sperm whales were discovered dead and stranded on a beach on King Island less than 300km from Macquarie Harbour.
The Environment Department believe the sperm whales could have been part of the same bachelor pod and have warned surfers and swimmers to stay away as the carcasses could attract sharks.