Rescuers on Friday confirmed they have saved a total of 94 long-finned pilot whales involved in Australia’s largest mass stranding on Tasmania’s west coast.
Six were freed, with rescuers holding hope that the remaining 12 to 20 stuck on the sandbar at Macquarie Harbour could still be saved, in spite of crews feeling drained by the four-day effort.
“I think everyone’s tired and feeling the fatigue. They’ve been long days,” Nic Deka, Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service manager, told newsmen.
Authorities have revised the number of dead whales down to 350.
It was originally estimated that 380 of the approximately 470 whales that become stranded this week had died.
On Monday, about 270 whales were discovered at three sites in Macquarie Harbour.
One-third were already dead before rescue efforts could begin.
A further 200 dead whales were spotted on Wednesday some 7 to 10 kilometres from the original site.
On Thursday, Marine Conservation Programme biologist Kris Carlyon said the release of so many whales was a “fantastic result”.
“On Monday as we were coming up with plans, if we had said 90 we would have been very happy with that”.
Efforts will soon begin to move the hundreds of carcasses out to deeper water using barges or towed by boats, which could take several days.
This week’s mass stranding surpasses the country’s previous 1996 record when about 320 pilot whales were stranded in Western Australia.
The cause of mass stranding is often unknown but experts suggest the whales may have been drawn into the coast to feed.