Posted on September 29, 2020
Petuna employees in Strahan were among those scrambling to save stranded long-finned pilot whales in what is believed to have been one of the largest strandings on record globally, off Tasmania’s west coast.
Included in the rescue mission were three of Petuna’s vessels (two jet boats and a Yakka – heavy works vessel), as well as two cargo nets lined with 32mm mesh for lifting the mammals, several strops and five people to assist the recovery as needed.
Sadly, the whales largely washed up on sand spits in the waters around an area called Macquarie Heads. At first it was believed there were around 270, but another 200 dead whales were spotted soon afterwards in Macquarie Harbour. Pilot whales can grow up to 7m (22 ft) long and weigh up to three tonnes. Slings and other equipment were used to help pull the whales off the sand banks to immerse them in water. Once re-floated, attempts were made to guide them back into deeper waters.
It is estimated that although tragically more than 350 whales died, thankfully 111 were saved.
Petuna Feed Manager, Thomas Mountney, said it was a ‘pretty grim scene’ and ‘overwhelming to see so many’ whales, but it was also a good feeling ‘doing what we can’.
"We had our boat out at 7am on the first day and the first trip we got one whale out, the second trip two decent-sized whales and the last trip we saved two calves and a mother," he said.
"So, six whales for us and the other two boats achieved similar results, so it's been really successful.
"It's hard, but everyone's got the same mentality of just every whale we get out there is a win."