Nearly 400 whales are dead in mass stranding off coast of Australia

JULIA JACOBO
·2 min read

Nearly 400 pilot whales have died after they became stranded off the coast of Australia, wildlife officials announced Wednesday.

The whales began piling up off Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania's West Coast earlier this week, according to the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service. While marine biologists initially believed about 270 whales had been stranded in three different locations, a fourth location containing an additional 200 whales was found about 6 miles into the harbor at Fraser Flats.

PHOTO: Aerial video shows numerous stranded whales along the coastline, Sept. 23, 2020, near the remote west coast town of Strahan on the island state of Tasmania, Australia, Sept.23, 2020. (Australian Broadcast Corporation via AP)
PHOTO: Aerial video shows numerous stranded whales along the coastline, Sept. 23, 2020, near the remote west coast town of Strahan on the island state of Tasmania, Australia, Sept.23, 2020. (Australian Broadcast Corporation via AP)

Practically all of those whales were found dead. About 30 at that location remain alive, marine biologists determined.

MORE: Rescue efforts underway for hundreds of pilot whales stranded off Australia's coast

Nearly 380 whales in total have died.

On Wednesday, rescue crews continued their attempt to save the whales by re-floating them, according to the wildlife service. So far, about 50 have been saved.

"That’s a success and we will continue to try and free as many of the remaining alive animals as we can," said Nic Deka, wildlife regional manager for the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service.

PHOTO: Teams work to rescue hundreds of pilot whales that are stranded on a sand bar in Macquarie Harbour on Sept. 23, 2020 in Strahan, Australia. (Steve Bell/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Teams work to rescue hundreds of pilot whales that are stranded on a sand bar in Macquarie Harbour on Sept. 23, 2020 in Strahan, Australia. (Steve Bell/Getty Images)

Many of the whales are in locations that are not easily accessible, Deka said. But the wet and cool weather -- as well as a higher tide in coming days -- is increasing the likelihood that some of the whales will survive, he noted.

MORE: Beachgoers attempt to push more than 20 beached pilot whales back into the ocean in Georgia

"Whenever they are still alive and still in water there is certainly hope for them, but as time goes on, they do become more fatigued and their chance of survival reduces," Deka said. "We will continue working while there are still alive animals on site."

PHOTO: Whales stranded on a sandbar in Macquarie Harbour on the rugged west coast of Tasmania, Australia. (Patrick Gee/The Mercury/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Whales stranded on a sandbar in Macquarie Harbour on the rugged west coast of Tasmania, Australia. (Patrick Gee/The Mercury/AFP via Getty Images)

Strandings of pilot and sperm whales are not uncommon in Tasmania, Deka said on Monday, adding that Macquarie Harbor seems to be a "hot spot."

The location where the 200 whales were found dead was a farther distance than the other spots and "not necessarily a place that is obvious for a stranding," Deka told reporters on Wednesday.

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The whales' navigation and false echoes may lure them into the harbor and wildlife biologist Dr. Kris Carlyon hypothesized that the "misadventure" of one or two whales while feeding off the coast could lead many others astray because of the social nature of the species.

“There is little we can do to prevent this occurring in the future," Carlyon said Wednesday.

PHOTO: Rescuers work to save a pod of whales stranded on a beach in Macquarie Harbour, Sept. 22, 2020, on the west coast of Tasmania, Australia. (Brodie Weeding/The Advocate/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Rescuers work to save a pod of whales stranded on a beach in Macquarie Harbour, Sept. 22, 2020, on the west coast of Tasmania, Australia. (Brodie Weeding/The Advocate/AFP via Getty Images)

Rescue crews will do a more extensive search now that more whales have been found, Deka said. Pilot whales often travel in pods of up to 1,000, so there may be more offshore, Carylon said.

ABC News' Tomek Rolski and Christine Theodorou contributed to this report.

Nearly 400 whales are dead in mass stranding off coast of Australia originally appeared on abcnews.go.com