UPDATE, MELBOURNE - A mass beaching has killed almost 100 whales and dolphins on a beach on King Island in Bass Strait off Tasmania.
A second pod of whales offshore have now died, officials said.
The 17 pilot whales were confirmed dead by wildlife officers this morning, taking to total toll of dead whales and dolphins to 97 in the past 24 hours, Tasmanian Department of Primary Industry, Water and Environment spokesman Warwick Brennan said.
A mixed pod of long-finned pilot whales and bottle-nosed dolphins beached on the remote Sea Elephant Beach, north of Naracoopa, yesterday.
Rescuers counted the bodies of 55 whales and 25 dolphins by this morning.
There were no further survivors in the area, Mr Brennan said.
Meanwhile, 50 pilot whales have reportedly beached on Maria Island off Tasmania's east coast, a government spokesman said.
Rescuers were on their way to the area, the spokesman said.
The cause of the strandings was not known.
Warwick Brennan, a spokesman for Tasmania's Department of Primary Industry, Water and Environment, earlier said a further group of about 20 whales had been spotted a few hundred metres offshore.
These animals had appeared to be alive and moving freely and a whale rescue team would try to stop them joining the animals on the beach.
"The team will be using boats to try to shepherd them away from the beach out into deeper water," he said at the time.
Mr Brennan had said the success of the rescue would depend on the condition of the animals and the depth of the water.
He said it was not unusual for bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales to be seen together as they fed on similar foods and one year ago a mass stranding of the same species had occurred on Tasmania's west coast.
Locals first noticed the stranded animals yesterday afternoon and have pitched in to help try to save them.
Late last night, local police herded 30 dolphins and 12 whales out to sea.
The animals were last seen swimming in a northerly direction, one nautical mile from shore.
Mr Brennan said the beach was a terrible sight this morning.
"It is quite grim," he said. "You've got a large number of spectacular animals that are dead on the beach. There are some baby whales as well, so it's not a pleasant sight."