WARNING - DISTRESSING CONTENT: A frantic rescue mission is reportedly underway after a large pod of whales became stranded off Tasmania's remote west coast on Monday morning.
Specialist marine conservation staff have been deployed to the scene at Macquarie Harbour, near the town of Strahan.
Initially the state's wildlife department said about 70 animals, believed to be pilot whales, were stuck on the sandbar at the harbour's head, however locals claim that number is considerably higher.
Strahan resident Georgia Grining said she believed the number was likely more than twice that.
“It's well and truly over the 70 that have been reported. It's probably closer to the 200 mark,” she told AAP.
She said some in shallow water appeared to have died.
"There are quite a few that are still alive. They look quite distressed, flapping around and obviously trying to get themselves off the sandbar. It's not very nice."
Guy Grining from World Heritage Cruises also reported a similarly grim account. According to the ABC, he flew over the whales in a helicopter and confirmed that some of the animals had already died.
“It's a pretty sad sight. There's probably 25 whales on Ocean Beach just outside the entrance and I reckon there's probably a further 250 inside the harbour that are stuck on various sandy shoals,” he told the ABC Hobart.
Department of Primary Industry, Parks, Water and Environment staff and Tasmania Police are on site, while whale rescue equipment is being transported from Hobart.
“Marine conservation program staff are travelling to the west coast to assess the stranding and what resources are required,” the wildlife department said.
“If it is determined there is a need for help from the general public, a request will be made.”
In a Facebook post Monday afternoon, the group asked the public to stay away from the animals.
“We understand members of the public are keen to help but ask people to stay away from the area unless asked to attend,” it said.
Meanwhile Tasmania police also warned that “members of the public are asked not to enter the water in boats”.
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