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Rescue efforts continue for some 230 stranded whales in Australia

HOBART, Australia — Some 230 whales have been stranded off the west coast of Tasmania, just days after 14 sperm whales were found stranded on an island off the southeast coast.

The pod, which is stranded on Ocean Beach, appears to be pilot whales and at least half are presumed still alive, the Tasmanian Department of Natural Resources and Environment said on Wednesday.

A team from the Marine Conservation Program was assembling a whale rescue team and heading to the area, the department said.

At least the whales are presumed to still be alive, officials said.Andrew Breen/AP

A resident told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. whales were visible near the entrance to Macquarie Harbor and they described the stranding as a “massive event”.

David Midson, general manager of the West Coast Council, urged people to stay away.

“Whales are a protected species, even once dead, and it is an offense to interfere with a carcass,” the environment department said.

Griffith University marine scientist Olaf Meynecke said it is unusual for sperm whales to come ashore. He said warmer temperatures could also be changing ocean currents and moving the whales’ traditional food sources.

“They will go to different areas and look for different food sources,” Meynecke said. “When they do this, they’re not in the best physical condition because they may be starving, so this can lead to them taking more risks and maybe getting closer to shore.”

Fourteen sperm whales were discovered Monday afternoon on King Island, part of the state of Tasmania in the Bass Strait between Melbourne and the north coast of Tasmania. The department said it is not unusual for sperm whales to be seen in Tasmania.

Pilot whales have been known to run aground en masse, for reasons that are not fully understood.

Two years ago, around 470 long-finned pilot whales were found stranded on sandbars off the west coast of Tasmania in Australia’s largest recorded mass stranding. After a week-long effort, 111 of those whales were rescued but the rest died.

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