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Pilot Whale Tragedy – Mass Stranding Of More Than 150 Whales

Tragedy has struck Hamelin Bay in Western Australia today with a Mass Stranding of over 150 long-finned Pilot Whales.

It’s believed up to 130 whales have died, with around 15 reportedly still alive and swimming close by in shallow water. The incident has sparked a massive rescue operation with a shark alert going out for the area, lifesavers issued a grim warning for locals to stay out of the water.


Rescuers Race To Save Pilot Whales. Photo: Megan Morris.

The gentle mammals were discovered at 6 am this morning and reported by a local fisherman when he discovered they had washed up  about 1 kilometer north of the boat ramp at the beach, just 10 kilometers north of Augusta.

Stranded Pilot Whale

Stranded Pilot Whale. Photo: DBCA

Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) incident controller Jeremy Chick explained the welfare of the surviving pod was the main priority:

“Unfortunately, most of the whales beached themselves on dry land overnight and have not survived,” he said.

“There are only 15 surviving in shallow waters and we hope to move them out to sea later today.”

“Rescue operations will be hampered by deteriorating, weather conditions and we need to ensure the safety of everyone involved before we move the whales.”

The unfortunate and unlucky event happened at a time when no one was around to witness it to help any sooner.

Frantic Race against time as bad weather approaches

If it wasn’t bad enough with the timing of this discovery including a shark warning, rescuers have also had to race against an ex cyclone which is fast approaching.

Visitor Service Coordinator Ben Tonnock said:

“An incident management team including veterinarians is on site, and authorities are trying to return surviving whales to deeper water.”
“We’re obviously managing the animals and the palliative care of those animals, and the rescue of the animals that are still alive, if possible.” Mr Tunnock said.

As a result of Tropical Cyclone Marcus, the Bureau of Meteorology said they were expecting a swell to start rising from the south west by this Sunday.

Hamlin Bay Whale Stranding

Rescuers try to re-float a whale in Hamlin Bay – Photo: Megan Morris

A huge public outcry for help

Local authorities have asked for people to stay away from Hamelin Bay and have closed Grace Rd and Reserve Rd. A DMCA spokesperson said it was a big task managing people at the scene, with many of the public wanting to help out, they were not requesting any public help as there was already dozens of personnel on the scene.

Uncanny Pilot Whale Coincidence

This isn’t the first time Hamelin Bay has had a mass pilot whale stranding; it was also the scene of another stranding back in 2009 on the same day of March 23rd when more than 80 pilot whales and dolphins stranded themselves. It’s certainly an uncanny coincidence and tragic! Our hearts go out to all our beautiful pilot mammal friends we’ve lost today and the amazing hero’s who have worked tirelessly to save as many whale lives as possible.

Spirit News Update 24/03/2018:

Here’s the latest update on the Stranded Pilot Whale Tragedy: It’s sadly understood that as of Saturday morning, more than 145 whales have now sadly passed away with only 5 whales surviving the whole tragedy. Rescuer’s have worked throughout the night to ensure that the whales returned safely to the sea without being washed back on shore.

According to WA’s Parks and Wildlife Service, the surviving whales were placed in shallow water throughout the arduous ordeal which made it difficult to move them out to sea as they were surrounded by the beaches rocky surface, dead whales and rough seas.

Why did they Beach themselves?

The Happy Pilot Pod Was Spotted In Bremer Bay Just 4 Days Ago

Spirit has learned through Whale Watch Western Australia, which had reported a sighting of a pod of around 100 pilot whales in Bremer Bay only 4 days ago. According to sources:

“The Pilot Whales gently approached our vessel and spent the next hour dancing, spy hopping and interacting with everyone onboard. There were many mothers and calves with a few big males also following along with the group.”


Pilot Whale In Bremer Bay The pod was spotted 4 days ago in Bremer Bay W.A.


It’s most likely the pod was traveling along the coast from the south east passing Bremer Bay before they ended up in Hamelin Bay. With Cyclone Marcus fast approaching, the swell and currents could very well have influenced their trajectory forcing them to swim dangerously close to land.

Cyclone Marcus could have influenced their trajectory. Source: Bureau of Meteorology.
Once a few from the pod had become stranded the group may have tried to save them by coming in close to help. There are many theories as to why whales can become stranded but this may very well have been the reason this poor pod of pilot whales tragically ended up beaching themselves.

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