337 Whales Dead in Mass Stranding on Chilean Coast

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Scientists have described the scene in the southern Patagonia region of Chile as “apocalyptic” as more than 330 sei whales have been found dead from unknown causes. A large number of dead sei whales found in southern Chile was first reported in April 2015 when around 20 dead whales were discovered near the Gulf of Penas.

VIDEO: May 10, 2015 More than 20 Dead Whales in South of Chile:

Sei whales are massive in size, reaching 19.5 metres (64 ft) long and weighing as much as 28 tonnes (28 long tons; 31 short tons). The sei whale was listed as an endangered species in 1973 after large-scale commercial whaling in the 19th & 20th centuries killed over 255,000. Sei whales are an internationally protected species.

The causes of this mass stranding is still unknown. Scientists think the possible cause of death was a red tide or virus but have not ruled out human intervention.

“They were everywhere, none were injured, so we thought they suffered from a red tide or a virus”, Vreni Haissermann, a German biologist who led the group of scientists who found the whales told AFP last May.

The Office of Puerto Aysén launched an investigation to establish the causes of the mass stranding. The National Fisheries and Aquaculture Chile (Sernapesca) director, José Miguel Barros, indicated last May that the institution would coordinate a tour of the sector in order to gather information to clarify the causes of death of the whales.

Whales Photo: Vreni Häussermann / Centro Cientifico Huinay

Photo: Vreni Häussermann / Centro Cientifico Huinay

Since then, overhead flights have determined the number of deceased whales was much higher than initially estimated. Scientists have counted 305 bodies and 32 skeletons of whales through aerial and satellite photography in an area between the Gulf of Penas and Puerto Natales.

Territorio Digital reports that strandings of whales and other species are common off the coast of Chile. However, this is the first time in which Sei whales, Balaenoptera borealis type have been found.

Whales Photo: Vreni Häussermann / Centro Cientifico Huinay

Photo: Vreni Häussermann / Centro Cientifico Huinay

Sources:
T13.cl
Territorio Digital
Sin Embargo
Guardian

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Erin Gallagher is a multimedia artist, translator and writer for Revolution News.