More than 150 pilot whales beached in Hamelin Bay, in western Australia, and on Friday, only 15 of the whales were still alive, authorities said.
It is believed that beached animals are short-finned pilot whales, which were sighted by a commercial fisherman. A rescue operation was under way to try to direct the survivors to the open sea. The authorities say that they will be given palliative care if necessary.
“I think it’s absolutely incredible, I’ve never seen something like this: so many whales together on a beach,” said tourist Barrie Brickle.
The Department of Fisheries issued a shark alert because the mammals could attract marine predators.
“Unfortunately, most of the whales swam by themselves to the mainland during the night and have not survived,” said rescue team manager Jeremy Chick. “Bad weather will hinder rescue operations and we need to make sure that all team members are safe before moving the whales.”
The dead animals will be removed from the beach. Officials from the Parks and Wildlife Service will take DNA samples with the intention of finding clues to find out why the whales ended up stranded in the sand.
In 2009, more than 80 whales and dolphins died on a beach in Hamelin Bay. In 1996, the largest number of whales died in this same way: 320 died on a beach in Dunsborough, in western Australia.