Tasmania rescue efforts underway after 230 whales are stranded in past 2 days

About 230 whales have been stranded on Tasmania’s west coast, just days after 14 sperm whales were found washed up on an island off the southeast coast.

The Tasmanian Department of Environment and Resources said the fish stranded on Ocean Beach appeared to be pilot whales and at least half are believed to be still alive.

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

One resident told Australian Broadcasting Corp. that whales were seen near the entrance to Port Macquarie and described the stranding as a “major event”.

Conservationists and marine workers are trying to save some stranded whales at Port Macquarie, near Strahan, Tasmania. (Brodie Weeding / Reuters)

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

The environment ministry said: “Whales are a protected species, even in death, and tampering with carcasses is an offence.

Food supplies may be affected by changing flows

Marine scientist Olaf Meynecke of Griffith University said it was unusual for sperm whales to wash ashore. He says warmer temperatures could also alter ocean currents and move whales’ traditional food.

“They will go to different areas and look for different food sources,” says Meynecke. “When they do this, they’re not in the best physical condition because they can get hungry so this can put them at more risk and possibly get closer to shore.”

One of 14 dead sperm whales washed up on a beach on King Island, north of Tasmania, Australia, on Tuesday. The whales were spotted the day before. (Tasmanian Department of Natural Resources and Environment / The Associated Press)

The pilot whale is famous for stranding in large numbers, for reasons not entirely understood.

Fourteen sperm whales were discovered Monday afternoon on King Island, part of Tasmania in Bass Strait between Melbourne and the north coast of Tasmania. The department said it was not unusual for people to see sperm whales in Tasmania.

Two years ago, about 470 longfin pilot whale found on the sands off the west coast of Tasmania in the largest recorded mass stranding in Australia. After a week-long effort, 111 of those whales were rescued but the rest died.

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