Salmon farmer helps Australia’s worst whale stranding rescue effort

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90 of the 470 have been rescued, 380 have already died.

Since Monday, it has been reported extensively that hundreds of long-finned pilot whales have been found beached on Tasmania’s west coast, Australia.

The whales largely washed up on the beach called Macquarie Heads. They can grow up to 7m long and weigh up to three tonnes are very social, living in large schools of hundreds, according to NOAA. They are not an endangered species.

Whales transported on mattress. PHOTO: Huon

An extensive rescue effort has been afoot, joined by the Tasmania salmon farmer Huon Aquaculture, which has operations in the area.

Huon posted on social media that it had been on what they called a “toiling week”: “The three pilot whales pictured here are currently en-route to freedom courtesy of our Strahan based crew, onboard our vessel “Spartan” – you may note the mode of transport includes a mattress! Yep, one of our clever crew, Sam Gerrity, thought it might be less stressful on the rescued whales if they had a more supportive, restful surface to lie on during the relocation.”

A Huon spokesperson told SalmonBusiness that it plans on continuing the support: “We are still in rescue phase – which is a positive state to be, given the harrowing week the boys have had but expect to move into clean-up mode perhaps over the weekend. We’ve had multiple staff from our Strahan based crew involved, as well as multiple vessels – like the other two salmon companies, have done too – all in this together”.

“In amongst doing their normal job (and we have a significant ocean trout harvest underway at the moment) our Strahan based crew have been working all hours, in all sorts of weather, to lend support to the combined rescue efforts. Fish farm staff understand the weather conditions exceptionally well and also understand how to care for animals (albeit usually fish a bit smaller than these beautiful whales) so no-one hesitated to help”.

Scientists say so far that there has been no universally accepted as a definitive reason for the behaviour. But according to the BBC, more than 80 per-cent of Australian whale strandings take place in Tasmania, and Macquarie Heads is a known hotspot.

Tasmania’s previous biggest stranding was in 1935 with 294 pilot whales. Its last mass stranding was in 2009 and involved about 200 pilot whales. However, the largest event consisted of 1,000 whales on the Chatham Islands, New Zealand, in 1918.

On Thursday Sky News reported that to date, almost 90 pilot whales have been rescued but officials fear they can only save another 20 of the animals before time runs out.