Months on from the mass whale stranding on Tasmania’s west coast, scientists say the whales refloated are not just surviving, but thriving since the incident.
In September 2022, 230 pilot whales were discovered washed up on Strahan’s Ocean Beach, two years after a similar mass stranding event in the same town.
After a massive rescue effort, a number of whales were able to be refloated, with tracking devices attached to five of them before they were released into deeper waters.
The department of Natural Resources and Environment has confirmed two of the five whales swam south after the stranding, exhibiting normal and healthy whale behaviours. The three others sadly re-beached themselves.
“While three tagged whales unfortunately re-stranded in challenging conditions on Ocean Beach and did not survive, satellite data from two individuals showed these two animals survived after being refloated following more than 24 hours stranded onshore,” Wildlife biologist Dr Kris Carlyon said.
“These two tags transmitted for periods of 17 and 21 days respectively, consistent with our expectations of battery life, and showed both animals travelling into waters more than 300km south of Tasmania.”
The tracks of both whales appear to show a distinct phase of rapid travel away from the stranding location followed by slower movement indicative of typical foraging behaviour.
“The data gathered is extremely valuable in validating the refloating methods used during the response and the significant effort and resourcing put into refloating stranded whales by the Department, industry and local community,” Dr Carlyon said.
Analysis of the tracking information is ongoing, and the Marine Conservation Program aims to deploy further devices on stranded animals at future stranding events to help inform and refine response procedures.