▶ Watch Video: Rescuers battle to save whales stranded in Australia

A day after 230 whales were found stranded on a beach in Australia’s island state of Tasmania, most of them have died, officials said. They appear to be pilot whales, and while the agency working to rescue the whales originally said half were still alive, only 35 had survived by Thursday.

Most of the whales are stranded on Ocean Beach and others were reported in Macquarie Harbour, said Tasmania’s Marine Conservation Program (MCP), which is responsible for monitoring and conservation of marine mammals and seabirds in the state.

The program, which is part of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, advised the public to stay away from the area as rescue teams work to save the whales, noting that interfering with whales – even if they are deceased – is an offense, as they are a protect species. 

Many roads are closed, as is the boat ramp at the harbor. Marine and Safety Tasmania also warned mariners about drifting whale carcasses in the water.

Earlier this week, 14 sperm whales, which are common in the area, were reported dead on King Island in Tasmania. The cause of death was being investigated by MCP.

“While further inquiries are yet to be carried out, it is possible the whales were part of the same bachelor pod – a group of younger male sperm whales associating together after leaving the maternal group,” the Environment Department said.

CBS News has reached out to the Environment Department and MCP for more information on the investigations.

Mass whale strandings are relatively common in Tasmania, but the causes remain unknown. Some researchers believe the whales may follow one or two whales who stray, or they may feed too close to the coast and get off track. 

In 2020, 470 long-finned pilot whales were spotted on a remote sandbank in Tasmania’s Macquarie Harbour. Experts were able to save 108 of them during a dangerous rescue mission.