WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Parks and Wildlife Service/AAP via AP
Close to 150 short-finned pilot whales died today after becoming stranded on a Western Australian beach prompting warnings that sharks may be attracted to the area.
Less than 12 hours after the horrific incident was discovered by a fisherman, the seven surviving whales were “placed in shallow water but it was difficult to move them further out as they were surrounded by dead whales, also because of the beach’s rocky terrain and rough seas.”
Parks and Wildlife Service Incident Controller Jeremy Chick said in a statement that they did whatever they could to give these animals the best chance of survival without risking the safety of staff and beachgoers that volunteered to assist in the rescue operation.
One hundred and thirty-five whales have died after being washed ashore in Western Australia.
A rescue operation began on Friday morning in Hamelin Bay, on the state’s south-western tip, to save the remaining 15, with volunteers and vets trying to keep the surviving short-finned pilot whales alive before deciding when to herd them out to sea.
One witness described trying to steer one of the animals out to sea, only to watch it beach itself again.
Jeremy Chick, who is controlling the rescue attempt near the town of Augusta, said the main priorities were to ensure the welfare of the remaining live whales and the safety of everyone involved in the operation before any rescue attempt was made to herd the whales back out to sea.
“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,” he said.
People were asked to avoid the area because rescuers had enough staff there.
Authorities warned the public to take care near the water because the dead and dying animals could bring sharks closer to shore. A three-metre shark was seen in the bay within a few hours.
Hamelin beach is closed from Hamelin Caravan Park to North Point including Grace Road and Reserve Road, and a shark alert has been issued for the area.
The largest mass stranding of whales in WA happened in 1996 when 320 long-finned pilot whales stranded themselves in Dunsborough.
Short-finned pilot whales inhabit tropical and subtropical waters and may be seen in the hundreds but groups usually number fewer than 100.
Updates and critical information includes the following advice:
- Take additional caution in the Hamelin Bay area.
- Adhere to beach closures advised by Local Government Rangers or Surf Life Saving WA.
- Keep informed of the latest detection and sighting information by checking the SharkSmart website or Surf Life Saving WA’s Twitter feed.
- If you see a shark, report it to Water Police on 9442 8600. All shark sighting information reported to Water Police is provided to response agencies and to the public on the SharkSmart website and the Surf Life Saving WA Twitter feed.
WAN hopes that an investigation will be done to find out why 150 short-finned pilot whales mysteriously washed up on shore in Western Australia and passed away as a result. A stranding this large and this tragic doesn’t happen every day, there must be answers.