EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, Fla. - Forty-one of pilot whales are stranded on the southwest Florida coast. At least ten have died so far. Rescuers are trying to herd the whales to deeper water but so far, their efforts have not worked. This is all happening in a remote area in Everglades National Park, south of Marco Island in Monroe County.
Dozens of dorsal fins stick up from the shallow Gulf water, stranded 20 miles too far from home. "It's so shallow. It's not where they would normally go," Christina Denegre, a Marine Biologist with Good Time Charters said.
Time is crucial in saving these stranded pilot whales. Six were found dead. Another four had to be euthanized. "It's very difficult to save them. They breathe air so they don't need to be held underwater or anything," Bruce Neill, Executive Director of Sanibel Sea School said. "Their skin does dry out so they can continue to wet them on the back surface of their backs."
A big question is, how and why did they get here? Local marine experts say it could be anything: a substance in the water, a signal disrupting whales' navigation, or injury or sickness. But, what affects one, affects the whole pod. "They have such a strong social kinship for each other and it's amazing but unfortunately that gets them in trouble because they all go down together," Denegre said.
Rescuers have tried to herd and push them away from shore. Even if they succeed, the whales' survival chances are low. "Often times, they will continue to re-beach and re-beach," Denegre said.
"In this case, it's a very sad condition. But in the ocean, it's a very common thing," Neill said.
Necropsies were performed Wednesday on the whales that died. Scientists will look for disease, injury or other factors that may have caused them to get stranded
A spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the workers suspended their rescue efforts after sunset, but plan to try again Thursday morning.