Australia plans disposal of hundreds of stranded whale carcasses

A pilot whale, one of at least 380 stranded that have died, is seen washed up in Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania's west coast on September 24, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 24 September 2020

Australia plans disposal of hundreds of stranded whale carcasses

  • Rescuers had managed to free around 70 of the long-finned pilot whales beached off the country’s remote southern coast
  • A rescue team of more than 60 government scientists and volunteers had dashed to the remote location

SYDNEY: Australian officials on Thursday began planning the grim task of disposing of almost 400 whale carcasses as hopes faded there would be many more survivors of one of the world’s biggest mass strandings of the mammals.
Rescuers had managed to free around 70 of the long-finned pilot whales beached off the country’s remote southern coast by Thursday afternoon. The majority of those freed had reached deeper water, officials said, but four were likely to be euthanized and others might return when the tide turns.
The clock was ticking for the remaining 20 whales still floundering in shallow water on a wide sandbank, four days after the 470-strong pod was first spotted off the northwest coast of the island state of Tasmania.
“Beyond the next 24 hours, any remaining animals that are alive will be less viable,” said Nic Deka, the incident controller for the state government’s Parks and Wildlife Service.
As result, authorities were developing a plan to dispose of at least 380 whales at sea, an operation that Deka said could take days.
“Our preference is for disposal at sea, we’re still taking expert advice as to exactly where the drop off point may be,” Deka said, noting the decomposing whales could pose an environmental health risk.
Marine biologists warned the task would be tricky.
“Dealing with over 400 dead whales is a real problem,” said Vanessa Pirotta, a marine scientist at the Macquarie University. “(It) would have to be very far out.”
The stranding, the biggest on record in modern Australia, has drawn attention to a natural phenomenon that remains largely a mystery to scientists.
A rescue team of more than 60 government scientists and volunteers had dashed to the remote location, braving freezing cold waters in an arduous refloating process. As many as four or five people per whale were needed to attach slings to the animals and guide them as they were pulled to deeper water by boats.


Academic freed in Iran ‘blown away’ by support

Updated 01 December 2020

Academic freed in Iran ‘blown away’ by support

SYDNEY: An Australian-British academic released after two years imprisoned in Iran on spying charges said she thanked supporters from the “bottom of my heart” Tuesday, saying they helped her through a “never-ending, unrelenting nightmare.”
In her first statement since arriving back in Australia, Middle East scholar Kylie Moore-Gilbert said she was “totally blown away” by efforts from friends and family to secure her release.
“I honestly have no words to express the depth of my gratitude and how touched I am,” the 33-year-old said.
“It gave me so much hope and strength to endure what had seemed like a never-ending, unrelenting nightmare. My freedom truly is your victory. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!“
Moore-Gilbert was released last week in a swap for three Iranians linked to a botched plot to kill Israeli officials in Bangkok.
She was arrested by Iran’s hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in 2018, after attending an academic conference in the holy city of Qom in central Iran.
She was later charged with espionage and sentenced to 10 years in jail, allegations she has denied.
arb/mtp