Rescue Attempts Continue For Short-Finned Pilot Whales That Stranded Themselves at Everglades National Park

Marine officials are scrambling to rescue the 41 short-finned pilot whales that have stranded themselves in Florida's Everglades National Park on Sunday.

Experts from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, took 15 boats and 31 volunteers to the area Thursday morning to begin their rescue efforts.

The Coast Guard and Miami-Dade Police Department have also joined in on trying to save the pod.

See also: Short-Finned Pilot Whales Have Stranded Themselves at Everglades National Park

The officials are also trying to figure out what's causing the whales to beach themselves in shallow waters near Highland Beach, which is about three-quarters of a mile off the shoreline in Monroe County.

The prospects of rescuing the pod, however, seem bleak.

The challenge is to get the 41 whales to cooperate and swim through a complicated maze of shallow water and sandbars.

"The outlook does not ultimately look good," said Blair Mase, southeast marine mammal stranding coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

As many as ten had beached themselves.

On Tuesday, marine officials were able to push back six of the ten whales that had beached themselves, but four of the whales soon died. That number has grown to six dead since.

A similar rescue effort was attempted Wednesday with no success. Rescuers are out there today, trying again.

As for the dead whales, Linda Friar, spokeswoman for Everglades National Park, says that the corpses will be left where they are, in keeping with national park policy. A field necropsies is expected to be performed soon.

Short-finned pilot whales are common in the Gulf of Mexico. This particular pod was discovered swimming in the shallow water earlier in the week by a fisherman near Highland Beach.

Back in October, we wrote about how aquatic live, including whales and dolphins, could be killed within the next five years via Navy military tests near the Gulf of Mexico.

Sonar, specifically, threatens the animals by disrupting their foraging and forcing them to abandon their habitat or beach themselves. It confuses the animals, oftentimes making them swim in different directions.

According to a recent environmental-impact statement from the military, computer models estimated a total of 186 whales and dolphins dying or being injured off the East Coast.

The report also said there could be as many as 11,267 serious injuries to sea life and 1,89 million minor ones, including hearing loss.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph