A 41-year-old pilot whale handler has died after becoming stranded on a sandbar off Tasmania’s north-east coast.

A calf was found safe and sound on a sandy bank at Christchurch, just south of the Hemmar Flat locality.

The Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries confirmed it had witnessed an incident at Christchurch last night when a large pod of pilot whales and two dolphins ran away from the beach.

The incident caused a delay in the opening of the track, with the beach temporarily closed to the public.

The death of the pilot whale handler is being treated as suspicious and an investigation has been launched into the cause of death.

Tasmanian Sea Care Society campaigner Trevor Dickson said he believed it was an accidental death but confirmed the animal had become stranded.

“The carcass had completely dried out so the carcass from the killing well from the beachside where this incident happened, was decomposed, was all the way out to sea. So there had been a delay in opening the track into them,” he said.

“So it wasn’t caused by a swarm of killer whales which got out and fished out that just occurred there.”

The royal commission into the Great Barrier Reef is investigating the disappearance of dozens of pilot whales off the coast of north-east Queensland last year.

Despite the denial, a spokesman for the commission said scientists were still investigating the whales’ deaths.

Topics: conservation, environmental-impact, animals, godwin-highlands-7140, australia, tas

First posted