Recent Whale Strandings Have Highlighted The Mystery That Marine Scientists Still Struggle To Solve

477 pilot Whales were killed earlier this week in New Zealand’s Chatham Islands. They had become stranded on two beaches at one of the largest beachings the country has ever seen.

230 whales were found stranded in Tasmania, Australia less than a month prior. Rescuers were able to save many of these marine mammals.

The grisly images of the recent wave of whale strandings caught worldwide attention. They also highlight how difficult it is for conservationists and scientists to prevent these incidents.

Strandings occur all around the globe, but researchers aren’t sure why.

Here are some facts about how whales become stranded.

Scientists aren’t sure why whale strandings happen, but they do have some theories.

Although experts aren’t able to explain why whales land on land, there are some theories.

Cetaceans are marine mammals that include whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Both dolphins and whales travel together and have been stranded in large numbers.

Toothed whales are also called Odontoceti and use echolocation to communicate underwater with one another.

Dr. Vanessa Pirotta is a wildlife scientist at Macquarie University, Sydney. She believes that some whales might become stranded because of a navigational error.

NPR reported that she believes the Chatham Islands’ recent stranding could be due to the deep water surrounding the remote land mass.

Pirotta stated that these animals could have been fishing, or transiting through water, and they may have unfortunately passed a navigational hazard and ended on the beach.

Pirotta also suggests that pilot whales may be misadventure because they are social and can follow sick whales that end up on the beaches.

Another reason whales might strand HTML is to flee from predators, fear a noise, be injured, or give birth.

Pirotta stated that the key point is that an animal involved in a Stranding does not want to be stranded.

“There is a reason it happened and we don’t know why.” It is still a huge mystery in science to figure that out.

While whale strandings can’t be prevented, sometimes it is possible to save the animals.

Scientists have a few strategies to try and save the whales if they are still alive when they reach the shore.

Whales, which are mammals, breathe air and can live for a limited time on land. You may see people splashing water on a beached whale to cool it down. Whales that are exposed to the sun can overheat.

Also, whales stranded on land don’t have the buoyancy that they feel while swimming through water. If they are beached, the weight of their bodies could cause them to lose their organs.

Scientists may use “re-floating” to try to get whales back to the sea.

This strategy has its pitfalls. Whales may have internal injuries that would kill them once they are returned to the ocean or they may get traumatized by the re-floating process, 7.320 confirmed strandings of cetaceans, seals, and sea lions in the U.S.A in 2018.

There have been a few high-profile strandings globally in recent years. These include the deaths in 2020 of 380 pilot whales offshore of Tasmania.

It is not clear if these deadly events are increasing in frequency. However, some studies — including from the United Kingdom as well as from Chile — show an increase in cetacean strandings.