|Tuesday, March 03, 2009|
Whale Rescue Off Tasmania
What is causing the largest mass whale stranding in Tasmanian history?
We intend to find out!
Some 200 pilot whales and dolphins went ashore on King Island north of Tasmania on the week-end. Over 400 whales have died including 50 sperm whales in January.
Sea Shepherd groups in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania including the crew of the Steve Irwin, responded in a coordinated effort to assist with this effort. Thanks to them, the Australian Parks and Wildlife Service and the good citizens on King Island, nearly fifty whales were saved.
Captain Paul Watson was in Queensland when word of the plight of the pilot whales reached him on Sunday morning. He immediately contacted the crew on the Steve Irwin and instructed First Officer Peter Hammarstedt to do whatever he had to do to get a crew up there as quickly as possible.
King Island is very remote, some 90 miles north of Tasmania in the treacherous Bass Strait. But where there is a will there is a way and five Sea Shepherd crew made it to the island by Sunday evening.
The Sea Shepherd crew was pleased to see that Australian Parks and Wildlife Services had the situation under control and had mobilized some 150 volunteers to help the whales off Naracoopa Beach of King Island. The five Sea Shepherd crew placed themselves under the direction of the Parks and Wildlife Service to assist in the rescue and had nothing but praise for the efforts by the rangers.
Fifty-three of the 54 whales that were alive Sunday morning were returned to the sea. Five of the six stranded bottlenose dolphins were also returned alive to the sea. Unfortunately some 150 pilot whales were lost.
One whale remains alive on the beach and is being cared for until the sea conditions allow for her to be assisted back to her pod.
The five Sea Shepherd crew included one biologist and two documentarians. We hope to have video from and photos within a few days.
The crew measured the size and length of each animal and took biological samples from the dead whales with hopes of securing evidence as to the cause of death.
Stranding events can be caused by military exercises, seismic research, and pollution. It is well established that pilot whales contain high levels of mercury and this could affect their behaviour.
"We need to get forensic evidence like inner ear bones, tissue samples and even entire brains to conduct the research to find the cause of these strandings," said Captain Paul Watson. "The Australian government has promised to allocate funds for research on whales and this is a good place to start."
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society would like to point out that Parks and Wildlife have been spot on in addressing this latest disaster and they did a splendid job of organizing a constructive rescue that saved a quarter of the stranded animals.
Photos by Adam Lau/Sea Shepherd Conservation Society