- 200 long-finned pilot whales have now died in the mass stranding event.
- Experts suspect that the super pod chased their squid prey into shallow waters and become trapped.
- The episode comes two years after 380 pilot whales were stranded and died in the same harbor area.
Two pilot whales died in Australia on Friday after becoming stranded on the west coast of Tasmania, bringing the total deaths to 200.
Two hundred and thirty have stranded themselves at the Macquarie Heads in Tasmania, but some have been refloated and sent back into the ocean but most have died, according to AP.
It is currently unclear why so many whales are stranded in the same place.
Pilot whales usually live in family pods of about 30 individuals, let by a dominant female, but sometimes coalesce into super pods, many hundreds-strong, according to The Guardian.
Speaking to ABC, Kris Carlyon from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania suggested that they may have followed prey too close to the shoreline.
"These guys do feed on squid. That could have brought them to the shore. That will be part of the post-mortem investigation.
"We'll be looking at stomach contents, what these animals have been feeding on in the last few days. That may offer up some additional clues," Carlyon said.
Current priorities lie with removing and disposing of the 25-foot-long carcasses weighing more than 4,000 pounds, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania Incident Controller Brendon Clark said, per AP.
That would likely include towing the whales into deep waters, ensuring they are far enough that they don't wash back to shore.
Clark said over 50 government staff and volunteers have been working on the rescue operation.
This event comes just two years after the largest mass whale stranding happened in the same harbor.
In 2020, almost 500 pilot whales washed up on Tasmania's western coast, killing 380.
The entrance to the harbor is a notoriously shallow and dangerous channel known as Hell's Gate, said AP.
The largest ever recorded whale mass stranding was in 1918, when approximately 1,000 pilot whales came ashore on the Chatham Islands in the Pacific Ocean.