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Pounding surf kills nearly 200 whales stranded on Australian coast – NBC Chicago

A day after 230 whales were found stranded on the wild and isolated west coast of Australia’s island state of Tasmania, only 35 were still alive despite rescue efforts due to continue on Thursday.

Half of the group of pilot whales stranded in Macquarie Harbor were believed to be alive on Wednesday, Tasmania’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment said.

But the crashing waves wreaked havoc overnight, said Brendon Clark, director of the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service.

“We triaged the animals yesterday as part of the preliminary assessment and identified the animals that had the best chance of survival from the approximately 230 that were stranded. Today the focus will be on rescue and liberation operations,” Clark told reporters in nearby Strahan.

“We have approximately 35 surviving animals on the beach…and the main focus this morning will be on rescuing and releasing these animals,” Clark added.

The whales have been stranded two years to the day after the largest mass stranding in Australian history was discovered in the same harbour.

About 470 long-finned pilot whales were found on September 21, 2020, stuck on sandbars. After a week of effort, 111 of these whales were rescued, but the others died.

The entrance to the harbor is a notoriously shallow and dangerous channel known as Hell’s Gate.

Local salmon farmer Linton Kringle helped with the 2020 rescue effort and said the final challenge will be tougher.

“Last time they were actually in the harbor and it’s pretty quiet and we could kind of take care of them there and we could get the boats to them,” Kringle said.

“But right on the beach, you just can’t get a boat in there – it’s too shallow, way too rugged. My thoughts would be to try to get them into a vehicle if we can’t swim them out,” Kringle added.

Vanessa Pirotta, a wildlife scientist specializing in marine mammals, said it was too early to explain why the grounding happened.

“The fact that we’ve seen similar species, at the same time, in the same place, reproducing in terms of stranding in the same place might provide some kind of indication that there might be something environmental here,” said Pirotta.

David Midson, chief executive of West Coast Council Municipality, urged people to stay away.

“Whales are a protected species, even once dead, and it is an offense to interfere with a carcass,” the environment ministry said.

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

Griffith University marine scientist Olaf Meynecke said it was unusual for sperm whales to wash up on shore. He said warmer temperatures could also alter ocean currents and displace traditional whale food.

“They will go to different areas and look for different sources of food,” Meynecke said. “When they do that they are not in the best physical condition because they might be starving which can cause them to take more risks and maybe get closer to shore.”

The pilot whale is known to strand itself in large numbers, for reasons that are not fully understood.

Thai archaeologists have unearthed a perfectly preserved 41-foot-long whale skeleton near the country’s capital.

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