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The mass stranding, near Macquarie Harbour, south of Strahan, comes just days after dead sperm whales washed ashore on King Island.

Tasmania’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment reports 230 pilot whales are currently stranded on Ocean Beach, with a number of the animals stranded on a sand flat.

“It appears about half of the animals are alive,” the department said in a statement.

“A team from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania Marine Conservation Program is assembling whale rescue gear and heading to the area.”

On Monday, 14 dead sperm whales washed ashore at King Island.

Wildlife biologists and a vet are still investigating how the pod of young males became stranded.

Experts are still trying to analyze the cause of 14 dead whales washing up at King Island. (PR HANDOUT IMAGE PHOTO) Credit: AAP

It was quite unusual for sperm whales to wash ashore, Griffith University marine scientist Dr Olaf Meynecke told AAP.

“Have these animals been sick or have they been impacted by something?” Dr Meynecke said.

“We know that there is planned massive seismic activity in the entire area for gas and oil exploration, so I’m not sure if there was any seismic activity.

“There can also be natural geomagnetic changes happening that might impact these animals.”

An aerial view of the mass whale stranding near Macquarie Heads. Credit: NRE

Warmer temperatures could also be changing the ocean currents and moving the whale’s traditional food sources, Meynecke said.

“They will be going to different areas and searching for different food sources,” he said.

“When they do this, they are not in the best physical condition because they might be starving so this can lead them to take more risks and maybe go closer to shore.”

It was only two years ago that hundreds of whales died after being stranded at Macquarie Harbour.

The 470 long-finned pilot whales were found beached on sandbars in September 2020 in what was the biggest mass stranding on record in Australia.

It was more common for pilot whales to become stranded because they migrate in large numbers, Meynecke said.

Usually, if one whale becomes stranded then the others follow.

“Not because they’re just blindly stupid but because of the emotional connection to the others,” he said.

– Tara Cosoleto, AAP


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