At least 90 pilot whales are dead, stranded on the sandbar off the remote west coast of the Australian island of Tasmania on Monday.
The challenge will be what to do with those animals once they are refloated.
"I would expect that we would shift through a transition from rescue into the retrieval and disposal effort ... we're just considering options at the present time", he said. Marine Conservation Program wildlife biologist Dr Kris Carlyon said the best approach was to start with the animals that had the best chance of survival.
Images from the scene showed a shallow body of water, thick with scores of the large slick-black creatures manoeuvering for space, and rescuers wading in as they worked to refloat the whales in deeper passages.
A rescue effort consisting of about 60 parks department staff, employees from a nearby fish farm, police and volunteers set out Tuesday morning in an attempt to re-float the whales, which will involve getting water beneath them again, Carlyon said.
"If conditions stay the same they can survive for quite a few days".
Around one-third of 270 pilot whales stranded off remote Tasmania coast feared dead
Mass whale strandings also regularly occur in other parts of the world.
"Some animals may be simply too big or in an unsuitable location to deal with", Carlyon said.
Although mass whale strandings are not uncommon in Tasmania, there are far more whales involved in this incident than usual.
Say whales dey stranded for same place dey common but dis size neva happun for more dan 10 years.
"First, rescuers will try to "re-float" the whales by "(displacing) them in the water", Carleone said - and if that doesn't work, or if it causes the whales to behave erratically, they will switch to another strategy.
"It's pretty ugly for people on the ground but as far as the whales go its ideal - it's keeping them wet, it's keeping them cool", he said. "We'll be aiming to make the most of that window", said Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service manager Nic Deka.
When viewed from the air, the mass it seemed to government officials like the mass stranding had around 70 whales, but on closer inspection, they realised that the numbers were higher. They wore wetsuits and were working in shifts to prevent hypothermia.
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