Australia and NZ team up to crack whale mystery
By Phillip Hudson - Political Correspondent
5th December 2004
Some believe seismic testing for oil and gas is to blame for the mass stranding of whales on beaches but others claim there is evidence it occurred as far back as 350BC, when Aristotle was a boy.
Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell says no one knows why it happens but in the past week about 200 whales, dolphins and other marine animals have stranded themselves on Australian and New Zealand beaches.
In one stranding, 73 whales and 25 dolphins perished on the King Island coast, while in a second incident, 53 pilot whales beached off Tasmania's east coast on Maria Island.
Australia and New Zealand are to join forces to try to solve the riddle with a new database to be created of mass strandings of marine animals. The Government has spent $3 million on marine mammal research.
"We are not sure why these tragedies happen but it's important that we co-ordinate existing scientific work to establish the reasons why these creatures become stranded," Senator Campbell said.
"Strandings are fairly frequent along the coasts of Tasmania and in Bass Strait at this time of year and in New Zealand, but we do not know why it happens."
Some whales are believed to navigate using the Earth's magnetic field and it is thought seismic testing could disrupt their navigation.