At least 135 short-finned pilot whales died after a mass beaching in Western Australia – with fears the carcasses will attract sharks – as rescuers worked to herd those still alive back out to sea.
The stranding of 150 whales at Hamelin Bay, around 195 miles south of Perth, was spotted by a commercial fisherman at daybreak.
Locals and tourists are being warned to stay out of the water due to a likely increase in sharks attracted by the dead whales.
Western Australia state’s Parks and Wildlife Service said its staff were on site and assessing the health and well-being of the 15 still alive.
“Most of the whales beached themselves on dry land overnight and have not survived,” said incident controller Jeremy Chick who added they they were awaiting support and equipment to help in a rescue attempt.”
He added: “The strength of the animals and the windy and possibly wet weather conditions will affect when and where we attempt to move them out to sea.
“The main objectives are to ensure the safety of staff and volunteers as well as the whales’ greatest chance of survival.”
Melissa Lay, manager at the Hamelin Bay Holiday Park, told Reuters on the phone that it was the second masse stranding she had witnessed during her 15 years in the area.
“There are some that are still alive but barely,” Lay said. “The last time it happened, none survived.”
Locals and tourists were being warned to stay out of the water due to a likely increase in sharks attracted by the dead whales. People there for the peak salmon fishing season were also advised to stay out of the shallows.
“It is possible the dead and dying animals will act as an attractant, which could lead to sharks coming close into shore along this stretch of coast,” the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development said in a statement.
It added: “While it’s not uncommon for sharks to be present off the Western Australian coast throughout the year, people should exercise additional caution until the stranding incident is resolved.”
Short-finned pilot whales inhabit tropical and subtropical waters and are often seen in the hundreds and when they beach, it is usually en masse.
The stranding happened at Hamelin Bay, around 200 miles south of Perth
The reason why mass strandings occur is still unknown.
There are many theories including the shape of the coastline being a contributing factor, whales responding to distress calls from other whales, or groups following a leader into shore.
The largest mass stranding in Australia’s west was at Dunsborough in 1996 when 320 long-finned pilot whales came ashore. All but 20 survived.
Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/23/130-beached-whales-die-australia-rescuers-try-push-survivors/