Trends in the Tasmanian cetacean stranding record
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Twenty-three cetacean species have stranded around Tasmania, the Long-finned Pilot Whale being by far the most numerous strander. Five species (the Pygmy Right Whale, Long-finned Pilot Whale, Sperm Whale, Common Dolphin and Bottle-nosed Dolphin) are considered as common members of the fauna on the basis of their stranding record and, for some, their sighting record. Two other species (the Southern Right Whale and Killer Whale) are also classified as common members of the fauna on the basis of their sighting record, although they are rare stranders. Four species (the False Killer Whale, Strap-toothed Whale, Cuvier’s Beaked Whale, and Gray’s Beaked Whale) strand regularly but infrequently, and are best regarded as consistent visitors to Tasmanian waters rather than common members of the coastal fauna. The 12 remaining species are either infrequent or rare visitors to Tasmanian waters.
There are four areas with a relatively high stranding frequency; Circular Head, Storm Bay-southeastern coast, Macquarie Harbour-Ocean Beach, and the Furneaux Group; and two areas with a relatively low stranding frequency; southwestern and southern coasts, and central northern coast.
Most stranding events are reported during the summer months, which is the period of maximum human activity on the beaches.
The number of strandings reported each year has been increasing over the past 80 years.
It is concluded that these patterns, particularly the latter two, are principally the result of changes in human activity and awareness, rather than the actual rate of strandings. However, annual fluctuations in the number of stranding reports are probably also due in part to variations in environmental factors.