Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jet boats, new nets to scoop Tasmania's whales from disaster

From Brisbane Times: Jet boats, new nets to scoop Tasmania's whales from disaster

Rescuers using new techniques to aid stranded whales remain hopeful they can save sperm whales in Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania's west coast.

Jet boats and a recently invented scoop net already have been used to save two whales and guide them to the open ocean.

The rescue team is now waiting for a break in the weather to free another two whales ''parked'' on sandbanks in the harbour.

''Unfortunately the wind is blowing directly into the narrow harbour entrance, effectively blocking the whales' path to the open ocean,'' said wildlife incident controller, Chris Arthur.

Sperm whales, normally deep ocean-dwellers that use sonar navigation, may fall victim to tricky beach topography and herd panic when they come inshore.

Refining methods learnt in a similar stranding in 2007, marine mammal specialists are using heavy duty waterjet-powered work boats from salmon and trout farms in the harbour to break the sand's suction on the whales.

A specially developed net strung between two vessels is used to scoop up the whale, and slowly ease it across the bank.

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