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Whale strandings: Some notable events

By AFP - Sep 21,2022 - Last updated at Sep 21,2022

This handout photo taken on September 20, 2022 and received on September 21 from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania shows the carcass of one of 14 sperm whales beached on King Island, off Tasmania’s north coast (AFP photo)

SYDNEY — About 230 pilot whales were found stranded on the coast of the Australian island of Tasmania on Thursday, at the same site where the country’s largest-ever stranding took place two years ago. In that incident, about 360 of the 470 pilot whales that beached in the remote harbour died.

Here are other notable mass strandings of whales from around the world.


New Zealand


New Zealand — considered one of the “hotspots” for whale strandings — has recorded incidents dating back to the 1800s.

The country’s largest reported mass stranding took place in 1918, when 1,000 whales beached on the remote Chatham Islands.

More recently, hundreds of pilot whales died after nearly 700 were found on the beaches of Farewell Spit — at the top of the country’s South Island — in February 2017. Another 145 died in a mass stranding the following year on Stewart Island.




One of the largest known mass beachings in the last century was of false killer whales in October 1946, when an estimated 835 were stranded near Mar del Plata in Argentina.




In December 2015, more than 300 whales were discovered washed up in a remote Patagonian inlet in southern Chile. Scientists at the time called the sight of the stranding “apocalyptic”.

A surge in algae in the water, known as a “red tide”, was believed to be the culprit. It bloomed across the ocean around Chile in the early months of 2016, choking to death an estimated 40,000 tonnes of salmon in the Los Lagos region — or about 12 per cent of the country’s annual production of the fish.

In July 2016, about 70 dead whales were also found on the southern Chile coast.




In May 2008, around a hundred whales swam onto the beaches of Madagascar, where three-quarters of them perished in the first mass beaching blamed on high-frequency sonar mapping systems deployed in the hunt for oil.

According to a report released by the International Whaling Commission in 2013, the culprit was a high-power 12-kilohertz multibeam echosounder system operated by an ExxonMobil vessel about 65 kilometres offshore. The company disagreed with the findings.

The use of anti-submarine sonars was also suspected of causing a mass beaching in 2002, when some 15 beaked whales perished in the Canaries after a NATO exercise.




In April 2015, around 150 melon-headed whales were discovered washed up on a stretch of beach in Japan.

The cetaceans, which usually live in deep water and are a member of the dolphin family, were thought to have either suffered from a parasitic infection that disrupted their ability to navigate, or had become unable to navigate in the sandy shoals.


Sri Lanka


In November 2020, Sri Lankan rescuers managed to save some 120 pilot whales in a gruelling overnight effort that involved the country’s navy.

Three pilot whales and one dolphin died of injuries following the mass beaching on the country’s western coast at Panadura some 25 kilometres south of the capital Colombo.


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