Tasmanian whale stranding: why is it and can it be stopped in the future? | whales

There is still a gruesome task that the rescue team must respond to Mass stranding of pilot whales on the west coast of Tasmania – Collect and drag about 200 huge corpses into the depths of the ocean.

The operation could take place on Sunday, after more than 30 whales – which are actually large oceanic dolphins – have been rescued and brought back to sea in three days of rescues this week.

The effort came nearly two years to this day The largest stranding event of whales in Australia It houses 470 pilot whales in the same location.

So what might be the cause of this latest delinquency, why is this place known as the ‘whale trap’ and anything can be done about it – and should we even try?

Why is this part of Tasmania such a hot spot for whaling?

Pilot whales have not been well studied but have been known to live in the 20’s or 30’s with females leading. Sometimes they form temporary “piercing horns” of up to 1,000 animals.

Tasmania is known to be a hotspot for whale chains – whales and dolphins – and the area near Port Macquarie in Strahan is particularly known for its pilot whale chains.

Professor Karen Stocken, an expert on stranding whales at Massey University in New Zealand, said no one knows for sure why some of them have turned into ‘whale traps’ but it is likely a combination of prey, the shape of the coastline and the strength and speed of the tides.

“The tide comes in and goes out really fast and you can get caught up in it,” she said. “If you are a flying whale looking for food and you are distracted, they can catch you. That is why we refer to these places as whale traps.”

The deep waters where pilot whales live and feed – mostly on squid – are relatively close to the shore around Port Macquarie and a gradually sloping ocean shore can also be a natural hazard.

Dr. Chris Carleon, a wildlife biologist with the state’s Marine Conservation Program, was on the scene this week, as he was two years ago.

One theory, he said, is that the gentle sandy slope toward the shore could confound the echolocation that pilot whales use to interpret their surroundings.

What is the cause of this delinquency?

Scientists have conducted autopsies of some animals on the beach, tissue samples and stomach contents are also being analyzed.

These tests were to rule out any possible abnormal causes, Carleon said, but the results so far point to a natural occurrence.

“We may never know the exact cause, but we’re starting to rule things out,” he said.

former Research the stomach contents of pilot whales stranded on an ocean shore They found that they were eating a variety of squid.

It’s possible that the prey is closer to shore, attracting one or two members of the pod to the natural whale trap, Carleon said.

Whales are stranded on Tasmania’s west coast in the state’s second event this week – VIDEO

Stockin said it would be very difficult to see why the whales were so close. But whether they chased after prey or took a wrong turn, it was likely that the capsule’s social structure drew more animals into it.

“What binds pilot whales together is that they have strong social bonds that last almost a lifetime with other whales in their group,” she said. “It’s an incredibly strong bond, and if you have an animal that is lost or exhausted, there is a risk that other people will try to help it.”

Pilot whales can communicate through clicks and whistles, and Stocken said this can make saving them even more difficult, as those still ashore can constantly call their mates for help, forcing them to turn back.

In some group delinquency, Stocken said, if a capsule brooding female is still alive but stranded, young capsule members can constantly return.

She said the fact that this delinquency occurred two years after the day after the previous major event could indicate a link to a seasonal or cyclical marine heat wave “but there is insufficient analysis of these events.”

“We have to remember: mass delinquency is a natural phenomenon, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t times when leads are caused by human action,” she said.

Can anything be done to stop this from happening again?

Carleon said the state’s marine conservation program has looked at potential approaches to preventing chains in the future, including using underwater sound or developing an early warning system.

“It’s the million dollar question: What can we do to stop this from happening in the future given that we know this is a stranded hot spot?” He said. To be honest, I don’t have a good answer.”

So far, Carleon said, “there is nothing that jumps out at us as a possible option” but the program “will continue to research whether technology or emerging ideas can help.”

Stoken said sonic bats are sometimes used to deter some dolphins.

“But there is a very fine line here,” she said. “We don’t want to scare animals away from critical foraging habitats.”

In some places around the world, she said, underwater acoustic monitoring is being used to alert authorities to times when marine mammals are in coastal waters.

“So you might have a higher chance of responding,” Stockin said. “But in our desire as humans to fix things, we have to remember that sometimes things are just part of the natural cycle.”

In some indigenous cultures, whale strings were traditionally seen as a blessing from the sea. Dead cetaceans are also a food source for coastal and oceanic wildlife.

Stockin said it was understood that humans felt a familiarity with cetaceans and wanted to help them — no matter what caused them to stray.

“They’re not just huge, charismatic animals; they have a crucial role to play in our oceans,” she said.

“They have dialects like our dialects. Some can use tools – Dolphins use a bottle nose sponge on them [nose] To protect themselves when they are looking for food. They have strong social bonds. We know we are dealing with a women-led community here.

“They are complex social mammals like the rest of us.”

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