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Volunteers train for whale strandings


Tasmanians will be better placed to respond to future whale strandings following recent training for volunteers at hot spots for strandings around the State.

Parks and Wildlife Service general manager Peter Mooney said the community has an important role to play in whale strandings, including both reporting strandings and assisting in rescues, particularly at mass strandings.

"To help volunteers be better prepared for strandings, we have recently been running first response whale rescue training courses around the State, with another course completed yesterday at Strahan," Mr Mooney said.

PWS education officer Ingrid Albion said the First Response Whale Rescue Training represents a change in focus for whale stranding training.

"While we've conducted whale stranding training for volunteers for the past several years, this first response training is aimed at establishing groups of trained people, both PWS staff and community members, at key locations for a quick response to a stranding," Ms Albion said.

"Tasmania has more whale strandings than any other State in Australia, but there are also 'hot spots' for whale strandings, such as Ocean Beach at Strahan, Marion Bay and King Island."

Everyone who completes the one-day training course receives a certificate and has the option to join the local first response team.

The volunteers may also be registered on the Wildcare Inc database, which is used to call out volunteers to strandings.

The local first response team is tasked with providing an immediate response to the whale stranding while marine experts from the Department of Primary Industries and Water travel to the incident.

"It's been shown worldwide that speed in getting to the site of a stranding and having trained people as well as a network of trained volunteers, is critical in the success or otherwise of a whale stranding," Ms Albion said.

"The significance of having trained volunteers is that they are less likely to injure either themselves or the whales, which is important given that whale strandings generally present a significant risk as people are working in difficult surf conditions and moving around large, heavy mammals.

Training days have been held at Hobart, Freycinet, Narawntapu National Park and at Strahan, with plans for more sessions at King or Flinders islands.

Ms Albion said there's been an enthusiastic response to the training.

"People really want to help whales. Maybe it's because people recognise that it's not suicide when whales strand, but the opposite; they are going to the aid of other whales when one gets into trouble," she said.