Pod of 230 Pilot Whales Found Stranded on Australian Harbor

by Lauren Boisvert

In unfortunate news, a pod of 230 pilot whales was found washed up in Macquarie Harbor in the Australian state of Tasmania today, Sept. 21. This comes two years to the day after a similar stranding in the same area of 470 whales. According to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania, environmental experts are currently on their way to the harbor to investigate the scene.

Specifically, the pilot whales are stranded on Ocean Beach and half of the pod is reportedly still alive. The Marine Conservation Program will be on-site to administer live-saving techniques and equipment. They are hoping to save the whales that are still alive. The team is working with the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service and Tasmanian Police.

David Midson, general manager of the West Coast Council–which is the local government covering mostly western Tasmania–urged residents to stay away from the area.

“The most important thing, if you’re not invited by parks or one of the organizations helping is to stay away,” Midson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “Having extra people can really hinder how they go about their rescue efforts.”

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania released a statement regarding the coincidental nature of this stranding. “The department has a comprehensive Cetacean Incident Manual which has undergone extensive review since the 2020 mass stranding and which guides a stranding response,” the statement reads. The department clarified that “stranding response in this area is complex.” If teams require help from the public once the scene is fully investigated, they will reach out through appropriate channels. They added, “Whales are a protected species, even once deceased, and it is an offense to interfere with a carcass.”

What Are the Similarities of This Pilot Whale Stranding With the 2020 Incident?

On September 21, 2020, a similar event occurred in Macquarie Harbor. 470 pilot whales were stranded on the beach, with only 100 of them surviving. Today’s incident is a grim visage of 2020. But, according to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania, whale and dolphin strandings happen often in Tasmania.

Just recently, 14 sperm whales died on the shores of King Island after stranding themselves. They washed up covered in blood, and there were only young males in the group. This scene is currently still under investigation by the department and the Marine Conservation Program.

The Australian Broadcast Corporation posits that the pilot whales may have “mis-navigated” the waters. There is also a possibility that the whale leading the pod was frightened by a predator and took evasive action. This could have led the pod onto the beach instead of further out to sea.

According to the Department of Primary Industry, Parks, Water and Environment, the Tasmanian coasts of Strahan, Ocean Beach, and Macquarie Harbour are “hotspots” for whale strandings.