The Greens say the mass-stranding of pilot whales on Tasmania’s west coast was a national environmental disaster and deserved a national response.
The Greens say the mass-stranding of pilot whales on Tasmania’s west coast was a national environmental disaster and deserved a national response.

National effort needed for whale emergency, Greens say

The Greens are calling on Canberra to urgently respond to Tasmania's whale emergency saying it is a national disaster which deserves and needs a national effort.

About 470 whales are either in distress or dead after two separate stranding incidents at Strahan this week.

On Monday two pods of about 250 whales were seen stranded on sandbars at Macquarie Heads. Another 30 pilot whales were dead on nearby Ocean Beach.

 

Rescuers from a range of organisations work to save some of the 470 pilot whales that became stranded in Macquarie Harbour at Strahan. Day 3. September 23, 2020. Picture: PATRICK GEE
Rescuers from a range of organisations work to save some of the 470 pilot whales that became stranded in Macquarie Harbour at Strahan. Day 3. September 23, 2020. Picture: PATRICK GEE

 

On Wednesday morning a recognisance flight over the harbour found pod of about 200 whales, mostly dead, in deeper further up the harbour towards the township.

The whales which cannot be saved through Tasmania's massive local rescue effort will need to be disposed of.

 

Rescuers from a range of organisations work to save some of the 470 pilot whales that became stranded in Macquarie Harbour at Strahan. Day 3. September 23, 2020. Picture: PATRICK GEE
Rescuers from a range of organisations work to save some of the 470 pilot whales that became stranded in Macquarie Harbour at Strahan. Day 3. September 23, 2020. Picture: PATRICK GEE

 

Greens Environment Spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and Oceans Spokesperson and Senator for Tasmania Peter Whish-Wilson have now called on Environment Minister Sussan Ley to step in and respond to what is an environmental disaster.

The pair said the stranding - the biggest ever recorded in Tasmania - deserved and needed a national response including support for the rescue and clean-up operations.

 

Rescuers from a range of organisations work to save some of the 470 pilot whales that became stranded in Macquarie Harbour at Strahan. Day 3. September 23, 2020. Picture: PATRICK GEE
Rescuers from a range of organisations work to save some of the 470 pilot whales that became stranded in Macquarie Harbour at Strahan. Day 3. September 23, 2020. Picture: PATRICK GEE

 

They also want an inquiry to be held to try to determine why the tragic event occurred.

"All eyes have been on Tasmania in the fight against the clock to save as many whales as we can," Senator Whish-Wilson said.

"As these researchers and rescue crew do so, they need every bit of support they can get.

"High-level research will also need to be carried out on the deceased whales to help us understand why this has happened.

 

Rescuers from a range of organisations work to save some of the 470 pilot whales that became stranded in Macquarie Harbour at Strahan. Day 3. September 23, 2020. Picture: PATRICK GEE
Rescuers from a range of organisations work to save some of the 470 pilot whales that became stranded in Macquarie Harbour at Strahan. Day 3. September 23, 2020. Picture: PATRICK GEE

 

"Cetaceans are protected under federal environment laws, so the federal government has an important role to play in providing research funds and mitigating risks associated with whale standings.

"I hope something good comes from this tragedy in that we substantially step up efforts to better understand the 'why' of this beaching.

 

"The level of public distress over this beaching event indicates just how much Australians care about whales and marine life and the Environment Minister should reflect this in backing our scientists with the support they need.

"I'm sure the Tasmanian Government would appreciate the assistance."

Senator Hanson-Young said Australians expected the government to step up and assist the marine biologists, rescuers and volunteers with whatever support the experts co-ordinating this enormous rescue operation need to save these whales.

 

Senator Sarah Hanson. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Senator Sarah Hanson. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

 

"The clean up operation is going to be a mammoth task and the Federal Government should be lending a hand. These magnificent animals deserve a national response," she said.

"The question everyone is asking is 'why has this happened'. We're calling on the Morrison Government to establish an inquiry and fund the research needed to help find the answers.

 

"The reason for mass whale standings remains a mystery but human interference with our oceans whether directly through projects like seismic testing or indirectly through warming ocean temperatures has unknown consequences and should be properly researched."

 

 

helen.kempton@news.com.au

 

 

Originally published as National effort needed for whale emergency, Greens say


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