The carcasses of about 200 whales that died in a mass stranding on Tasmania’s west coast will be buried at sea over the coming days, after more animals were euthanised.
Marine rescuers had intended to focus on freeing three remaining surviving pilot whales from Ocean Beach near Macquarie Harbour, south of Strahan, on Friday.
However their mission was complicated by several whales restranding.
One that ended up back on the beach died, while another six were euthanised – one, early on Friday and five others late in the day on welfare grounds.
Some of the whales appeared to have restranded more than once, incident controller Brendon Clark said.
“It’s disappointing to lose more whales but trying to refloat and release them again is unlikely to be successful.”
Most of the surviving whales from the pod have been rescued and released into deeper water but there were reports of a small number of whales inside the harbour.
Response teams would continue to survey the area for other live animals, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment said on Friday evening.
Crews from Tasmanian-based salmon farming company Tassal are among those assisting with the mission, and on Friday helped rescue nine whales, including some that re-beached.
As of Friday afternoon, Tassal said six whales remained on the beach but they expected the last run to be 5.30pm given it wasn’t safe to have boats navigating Hells Gates – the mouth of Macquarie Harbour – into the evening.
“While Tassal crews were on the water today, employees from other companies assisted … moving deceased whales four kilometres up the beach ready to be taken out to deep sea,” a spokesman said.
Efforts will shift to recovering, removing and disposing of carcasses in the coming days.
Crews intend to tow them out to sea via longline with help from local salmon companies, Mr Clark said.
“We plan to release them in very deep water when weather conditions allow for safe operations.”
While it was likely some would wash back to shore, most were expected to disperse and deteriorate quickly.
A community meeting was held in Strahan on Friday evening to keep residents informed.