Tragedy At Sea: Officials To Bury Some 147 Dolphins Beached Off Japan's Coast

Dana Shemesh

Rescuers are said to have abandoned efforts to save some 147 melon-headed whales that suddenly became beached off Japan's Northeastern shore on Friday.

Rescue efforts were called off as night fell off the coast of Hokoto, located some 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Tokyo -- where the bodies of some 147 dolphins lay strewn over a six mile radius.

Despite their frantic efforts to revive the animals, rescuers were only able to save only three of the beached dolphins, reports Discovery News. Officials say they plan to bury the remaining 147 beached dolphins that they were not able to save.

Local officials worked with the coast guard throughout the day in a frantic attempt to save the animals, covering them up with dampened towels and pouring buckets of water over them to prevent their bodies from drying out in the sand.

"It was becoming dark and too dangerous to continue the rescue work at this beach, where we could not bring heavy equipment," a local official told AFP.

Despite rescuers' efforts, some of the beached animals that were pushed back in the water were too weak to swim against the strong tides and became beached on the sand again.

Coast Guard officials say a massive beaching of this size is rare; although around 50 of the same species of animal reportedly beached themselves in the same area in 2011.

"We see one or two whales washing ashore a year, but this may be the first time we have found over 100 of them on a beach," a coastguard official told AFP.

The melon-head whale -- also known as the electra dolphin -- is common in deep Japanese waters and can grow up to three meters (nine feet) long.

Officials are investigating the cause of the beaching, but experts say the dolphins may have suffered physiological problems or may have panicked from an unknown threat -- triggering them to swim closer to shore.

Wildlife officials warn beachgoers to take precautions before trying to assist beached animals -- including dolphins -- urging them to contact local officials before trying to save them.

If you saw a beached animal, would you try to help it survive?

[Photo By Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images]