In Brief

More than 130 whales die on Western Australia beach

The stranding of 150 mammals at Hamelin Bay, south of Perth, sparks major rescue operation

At least 135 short-finned pilot whales have died following a mass beaching in Western Australia.

Around 150 short-finned pilot whales were spotted on the beach by a commercial fisherman on Friday morning at Hamelin Bay, around 195 miles south of Perth.

Almost all of them have now died, but volunteers and experts are attempting to save the remaining few. There’s a risk the carcasses will attract sharks and this has caused the authorities to issue warnings against swimming in the area, The Guardian reports.

“The strength of the animals and the windy and possibly wet weather conditions will affect when and where we attempt to move them out to sea,” said Jeremy Chick, an official from the Australian Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions. “The main objectives are to ensure the safety of staff and volunteers, as well as the whales’s greatest chance of survival.”

“Most of the whales beached themselves on dry land overnight and have not survived,” Chick added.

Melissa Lay, the manager at the Hamelin Bay Holiday Park, told Reuters that it was the second mass stranding she had witnessed during her 15 years in the area.

“There are some that are still alive but barely,” Lay said. “The last time it happened, none survived.”

Whale beachings are a rare but devastating event, the causes of which remain a mystery to scientists. Curtin University marine mammal scientist Bec Wellard told ABC News this week that “one of the theories we do have is that it could be a high risk area. The environment could be the cause of repeated strandings,” she said, adding that man-made noise, an illness within the whale group and naval activity could all be to blame.

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