British Virgin Islands reports more than 50 stranded whales

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — More than 50 short-finned pilot whales have died after stranding themselves in the British Virgin Islands, according to government officials.

The whales were part of a pod of around 150 seen in the area, the island’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Labor said in a statement Sunday.

Their carcasses were found on the east end of Anegada island, and officials warned people not to move or touch them.

“Unfortunately, survival rates are very low for beached whales, and the BVI does not have the captive facilities to nurse giant injured mammals,” said Argel Horton, a marine biologist with the ministry.

Officials said they are collecting tissue samples from as many dead whales as possible to determine what caused the mass stranding.

Short-finned pilot whales live in groups of 25 to 50 and seek warmer tropical and temperate waters. Females live up to 60 years and males up to 45 years, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The agency said that the causes of strandings often remain unknown, although scientists have sometimes blamed “disease, harmful algal blooms, vessel strikes, fishing gear entanglements, pollution exposure and underwater noise.”