Only about 35 of the marine mammals remained alive out of the 230 found a day earlier.

A rescuer pours water on one of the stranded whales on Ocean Beach, near Strahan, Australia.
A rescuer pours water on one of the stranded whales on Ocean Beach, near Strahan, Australia. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP)

Wildlife experts have rescued 32 of the 230 whales that were found stranded on the wild and remote west coast of Australia’s island state of Tasmania.

While half the pod of pilot whales found stranded in Macquarie Harbour were presumed to still be alive on Wednesday, only 35 had survived the pounding surf overnight, Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service manager Brendon Clark said on Thursday.

“Of the 35 that were remaining alive this morning, we’ve managed to refloat, rescue and release… 32 of those animals, and so that’s a terrific result,” Clark told reporters.

“We still have three alive on the far northern end of Ocean Beach, but because of access restrictions, predominantly tidal influences, we just haven’t been able to access those three animals safely today. But they’ll be our priority in the morning,” Clark added.

The whales beached two years to the day after the largest mass-stranding in Australia’s history was discovered in the same harbour.

About 470 long-finned pilot whales were found on September 21, 2020, stuck on sandbars. After a weeklong effort, 111 of those whales were rescued but the rest died.

The entrance to the harbour is a notoriously shallow and dangerous channel known as Hell’s Gate.

'Mass stranding event'

Marine Conservation Program biologist Kris Carlyon said the dead whales would be tested to see if there were toxins in their systems that might explain the disaster.

“These mass stranding events are typically the result of accidental sort of coming to shore, and that’s through a whole host of reasons,” Carlyon said.

Local salmon farmer Linton Kringle helped in the 2020 rescue effort and said Thursday’s challenge was more difficult because the whales were in shallower and more exposed waters.

Fourteen sperm whales were discovered on Monday afternoon beached on King Island in Bass Strait between the Australian mainland and Tasmania.

Griffith University marine scientist Olaf Meynecke said it’s unusual for sperm whales to wash ashore. He said that warmer temperatures could also be changing the ocean currents and moving the whales’ traditional food.

READ MORE: 230 pilot whales stranded in Australia, 'about half' feared dead

Source: TRTWorld and agencies