Beachgoers are volunteering their time and tents to help save the five pilot whales stranded near Redington Beach, Florida

By Colleen Cronin
July 29, 2019 02:26 PM
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Pinellas Sheriff's Office

Agencies are attempting to save five pilot whales after they stranded themselves in shallow water early Monday morning in Redington Beach, Florida, according to NBC’s WFLA 8 and the Tampa Bay Times.

Marine experts from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Coast Guard officers, and volunteers have all sprung into action to save the sea creatures, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

In photos from the scene, tents are seen protecting the whales from the sun, as pilot whales can get sunburns just like humans.

“We do our best to make sure they are comfortable as possible in what is, of course, an uncomfortable situation for them,” Carlee Wendell from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium told WFLA 8. “We do provide shade to them and thankfully we did have a lot of beachgoers who were willing to lend us their tents for the day.”

Redington Beach, FL
Pinellas Sheriff's Office

Wendell said the aquarium isn’t sure why the whales swam so close to shore, but tests are currently being run on the small pod, that might include a calf, to determine whether or not the whales are sick.

“They have come to shore, they don’t do that unless something is wrong. However, these are social animals that live in groups of up to 10 to 100. So it’s a possibility that if one of them is sick, the others would follow,” Wendell added.

This incident comes only six days after a group on a helicopter tour found dozens of dead pilot whales washed up on a beach in Iceland.

“We were flying northbound over the beach and then we saw them. We were circling over it not sure if it was whales, seals or dolphins. We landed and counted about 60 (pilot whales,) but there must have been more because there were fins sticking out of the sand,” helicopter pilot David Schwarzhans told the BBC after taking a group of sightseers over a secluded beach in Longufjorur.

Earlier this month, a group of volunteers prevented a pod of pilot whales from stranding themselves in shallow water, The Washington Post reported. Volunteers physically pushed the whales away from seawalls and eventually the pod made its way to safer waters.

While the marine mammals are not endangered, both long-finned and short-finned pilot whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, according to NOAA.

The fate of the Florida pilot whales is uncertain, but rescuers in Florida are working diligently and could transfer some or all of the animals to local aquariums.

“They’re currently making a decision about what will be best for the animals,” Wendell said.