A pod of around 230 whales has been stranded in Tasmania, Australia, with authorities saying around half have already died. Rescuers have arrived at the scene, but rescue will be difficult due to the shallow bay. Authorities expect more whales to die overnight.
“A pod of approximately 230 whales has become stranded near Macquarie Harbor on the west coast of the island,” Tasmania’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment said, adding that about half of them are still alive. Rescuers with whale rescue equipment have already been sent to the scene, but the operation will be difficult due to the shallowness of the bay. Authorities expect more whales to die overnight.
The whales stranded in the harbor are thought to be dusky porpoises. These highly social mammals are known to hang out in groups, traveling in large, close-knit communities that depend on constant communication. Strandings often occur when old, sick or injured whales swim ashore and other members of the community follow them and try to respond to their call for help. Also, experts believe that slightly sloping beaches, such as those in Tasmania, could be the reason, as these can confuse the communication of the whales, who then think they are swimming in open water.
A similar incident took place in Tasmania on Tuesday, when locals on King Island discovered the bodies of 14 bowhead whales. In September 2020, more than 380 porpoises died near Macquarie Harbor in the worst mass stranding in Australia.
Whale strandings are not uncommon in Tasmania. Experts have been warning for a long time that the island is a “hot spot” for such events.