Marine Conservationists Race to Rescue 270 Whales Stranded on Western Coast of Tasmania

Pilot whales lie stranded on a sandbar Monday near Strahan, Australia. Marine conservationists have been deployed to the scene on Tasmania’s west coast to try to rescue the whales. (Brodie Weeding/AP)

Along the western coast of Tasmania, marine conservationists are gathering to conduct a massive operation: the rescue of some 270 pilot whales that have been stranded on sandbars there.

Tasmania is an island state of Australia, about 150 miles south of the mainland. The whales were first reported stuck on Monday morning.

Nic Deka of Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service told the Australian broadcaster ABC that government marine conservation experts planned to start the rescue operation on Tuesday morning, and that it would involve three sites where whales have beached in shallow water at the Macquarie Heads area.

“The main pod that’s stranded is on a sandbar that’s about 100 meters off the Macquarie Heads boat ramp, and there’s a further pod on another sandbar several hundred meters further out from there,” Deka said.

Video of the area shows a large number of whales stuck close together, trying fruitlessly to free themselves.

Deka told reporters that it’s difficult to know how many of the whales may already be dead, but from the air it appeared that about 25 had died.

Twenty staff members had already arrived with specialized equipment for the mission.

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SOURCE: NPR, Laurel Wamsley