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Celebrating the achievements of landcarers

04/12/2017

The Tamar Island Wetland Cares Volunteer Group has been recognised in the 2017 Landcare Tasmania Awards.More

Horsetail Falls walk now open

15/11/2017

Visitors to the West Coast are in for some spectacular views on the new Horsetail Falls walk near Queenstown.More

Bruny Island Neck lookout re-opens

10/11/2017

The walkways and lookout at the Bruny Island Neck will re-open to the public today, following the completion of a new, larger car park that will provide improved access to the popular lookout.More

Long-finned Pilot Whale

Stranded Long-finned Pilot Whales
This is the most common mass strander in Tasmania as well as New Zealand They are easily identified by their pot-shaped head, black colour, large size and the fact that they travel in pods of between 10 - 1000 animals. They have long, thin black flippers and a large, low triangular shaped dorsal fin that is not as big as that of the Orca. The tail fin which can be seen on diving has pointed tips and concave trailing edges with a distinct notch where it joins. They will often spy hop when milling close to shore which means poking their head out of the water. Adult males reach up to 7.2m in length with the females up to 6m and newborns around 2m. All live in the same pod. When these whales are stranded you will notice a distinctive white/grey mark under the chin in the shape of an anchor.

General Information

Long-finned Pilot Whales can reach up to 3 tons in the larger male and live well into their forties and females into their sixties. They breed every 3-5 years in spring and summer and calves are not weaned until at least 2 years of age with some suckling until 12 years. Males live in the family group with females and young and often take a leadership role. Each pod is relatively stable and animals are closely bonded with each other which is a great survival strategy in the open ocean where they live but also leads to mass strandings when one gets into strife close to shore.

It is not uncommon for Long-finned Pilot Whales to feed with Bottle-nosed Dolphins which probably scavenge fish from these deep diving animals. Pilot Whales can dive down to 800m chasing squid and so form communal kinship groups to protect their young whilst their mothers seek prey. They use echolocation to find squid and like the Sperm Whales are oceanic species, unfamiliar with coastlines. They feed off the continental shelf. They occur all around Tasmania, usually in deeper water at all times of the year

Stranding Information

Distribution map of sightings and strandings (click to enlarge)
When Long-finned Pilot Whales come close to Tasmania’s coastline following their prey they are at risk of stranding. If one member of the pod makes a mistake or is unwell, all members of the pod will come to its aid. In most stranding situations pod members are healthy and can be successfully refloated with enough volunteers to assist. 

It is vital you call the Whale Hotline immediately - 0427 942 537 - as it is possible more whales will have stranded nearby. 

All healthy animals are refloated together and released as a pod to reduce the likelihood of them restranding. If Bottle-nosed Dolphins are present they are usually released first and encouraged to leave the area to prevent interference with Pilot Whale release. Sound barriers created by boats can prevent freely swimming whales and dolphins from stranding and is a priority at a rescue. There are many locations around Tasmania’s coastline that act as natural whale traps causing whales to get confused and trapped by the outgoing tide. Trained volunteers are vital in refloating these pod animals, particularly when dealing with groups of up to 200 plus whales. 

In Tasmania mass strandings most often occur over spring and summer and in some years three or four strandings can occur in as many months. Close to 4000 pilot whales have been recorded as stranded off Tasmania’s coastline. Stranding hotspots occur all round the coastline including offshore islands such as Bruny, Flinders, King and Maria, as well as the northwest, Strahan, northeast, east and southeast coast at places such as Marion Bay, Freycinet and Rheban.