About 270 pilot whales are trapped in Strahan, a small town in the island state of Tasmania on the south coast of mainland Australia. They are scattered over two sandbars and a beach bar, according to the Tasmanian Marine Conservation Program, which is leading the rescue operation.
“This is a really challenging phenomenon,” he said. “This is one of the difficulties we have faced in terms of large-scale tensions in Tasmania.”
Other potential problems include unpredictable tides that are being washed away, and the possibility of distressed whales attracting sharks to the area.
Rescue teams of about 60 people include volunteers, police, fish farms and Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service. With the ticking of the clock, they are forced to try, starting with the whales with the best chance of success, Carlien said.
First, rescuers are trying to “move” (change) the whale into the water, ”Carlyen said – and if it doesn’t work, or if it treats the whale irregularly, they will move on.
Rescue missions will probably take days, raising concerns that whales may not live that long. But the current weather is keeping the whales wet and cool, which is “ideal,” Carlyen said – whales can survive a few more days if conditions remain like this.
It is not entirely clear what caused the whales to be washed ashore, although Carlyon added that some other mass strands have occurred at similar locations. The whale would have been drawn after eating near the shore; Or, a few whales would have wandered too close into “simple misconduct,” and after the rest pod.
After rescuers hope to rescue the remaining whales, they will have another daunting task – moving dozens of whale carcasses from inside the harbor to the sea. Experts prefer to leave corpses, especially when strands occur, Carlien said – but they can’t do that in this case because the area is close to human campgrounds and activity sites.
Officials warned people to stay out of the area, and not to approach the beach in boats.
These mass strands often include social species that live together in large groups, according to the section. Pilot whales, sperm whales and bottlenose dolphins are the species that are most often trapped.
Jack Guy and Sol Hein of CNN contributed to this report.
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