Whales pilot themselves in to Bunbury harbour | photos, video

Twelve long-finned pilot whales are dead after they stranded themselves on a Bunbury beach this morning while efforts are continuing to save the rest of their pod.

The Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) responded to an incident in Bunbury harbour this morning where 23 long-finned pilot whales stranded themselves against the breakwater wall and adjacent beach in Bunbury harbour.

Department of Parks and Wildlife nature conservation leader Kim Williams said 12 whales had died, while six were earlier herded out to sea. 

“This afternoon’s efforts have focussed on the rescue of four remaining whales that were stranded in the shallows, and they were pulled out to sea using a sling and boats,” he said.

“Unfortunately one of these whales has re-stranded and is being taken out to deeper water again, while the other three are not swimming strongly and there is a chance they will also re-strand.

“There is another pod of 15 long-finned pilot whales that has been swimming in the area all day, and we are hoping the whales we released this afternoon will join them.

“We will continue our efforts to rescue the animals until nightfall, when it is no longer safe to do so, and we will re-assess the situation in the morning.”

Mr Williams said the Department had worked closely with the Bunbury Port Authority, Department of Fisheries, Murdoch University, Dolphin Discovery Centre volunteers and staff, community volunteers and a local veterinarian. 

Members of the public are advised to avoid the area and report any stranded or distressed whales in the area to Parks and Wildlife’s Bunbury office on 9725 4300.

Around 50 people, including staff and volunteers from the Dolphin Discovery Centre, went to the beach to help free the whales and a number of boats are assisting with the rescue effort. 

Several groups of volunteers held some of the freed whales off shore while they waited for the rest of the pod to be rescued.

The mother of one of the calves that was rescued continued to beach itself as it thought it's calf was on the rocks. Rescuers had to bring the calf back in to shore in an attempt to coax the mother to stop.

Wildlife officers are on the scene assessing the situation. An aircraft that was sent up this morning did not detect any more whales in distress in the area. 

The stranding was reported to DPaW just before 11am this morning.

This afternoon, officers have started to move the dead whales up onto the beach.