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More than 150 short-finned pilot whales were found beached on an Australian shore Friday - only about 15 of which survived, officials said.

Short-finned pilot whales inhabit tropical and subtropical waters and are often seen in the hundreds and when they beach, it is usually en masse.

A massive rescue operation was launched by a fishermen on Friday to return the stranded mammals back to the sea. A rescue operation was under way to try to direct the survivors to the open sea.

'Heading back there now, she said.apparently they need more people with wetsuits to help, ' she said.

The mass beaching likely took place sometime on Wednesday night to early Thursday morning at Hamelin Bay in Western Australia, according to the state's parks and wildlife service.

A shark alert has been issued by the Fisheries Department as the whale carcasses may attract the ocean predators.

In 2009, more than 80 whales and dolphins died on a beach in Hamelin Bay, named after French explorer Jacques Felix Emmanuel Hamelin who sailed through the area in about 1801.

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Almost 100 volunteers have helped to rescue five whales that became stranded on a West Australian beach.

Rescue team leader Jeremy Chick said the surviving whales are in shallow water.

Chick said moving the surviving whales was hard logistically due to the rocky beach terrain, the location of dead whales surrounding the live whales and rough seas. In 2014 and 2015, two short-finned pilot whales suffocated when flatfish got stuck in their blowholes, Live Science previously reported.

It is the second biggest beaching incident in WA's history, with 147 of them confirmed dead.

The largest mass stranding of whales in the state occurred in 1996 when 320 long-finned pilot whales stranded themselves just north of Hamelin Bay.

"I think it's absolutely incredible, I've never seen something like this: so many whales together on a beach", said tourist Barrie Brickle.