A 33 foot long juvenile male sperm whale was found dead on a beach in Murcia, Spain. The necropsy revealed that the whale’s stomach and intestines were filled with 29 kilograms(64 pounds) of plastic dumped in the ocean.
The trash found inside the whale contained plastic bags, fishing nets, a plastic container. The scientists were shocked because the insides of the whale looked like a garbage can. It died of abdominal infection, peritonitis a condition where the digestive system ruptures when the body fails to digest the waste it had swallowed.
The whale was unusually thin. The diet of a sperm whale includes mainly squid, also fish, octopi, rays and sharks but definitely not plastic. The average lifespan of a sperm whale is that of a human, 70 years but the one found dead on the beach was only a juvenile. It must have been in severe pain and came ashore to put an end to its misery.
Regional authorities in Murcia have launched a campaign to clean the region’s beaches and create awareness among masses to stop littering around coasts.
The Plastic Problem of the Sea
This is not the first time when a whale died of toxins in the sea. Last year, a heartbreaking footage of a mother pilot whale carrying its dead calf in its mouth was shown in an Episode of BBC’s Blue Planet (read about it here). It is estimated that the baby calf must have been poisoned by his mother’s milk due to a food chain polluted with toxic plastic. The accumulated pollutants inside the mother whales result into toxic milk. The other adult whales refused to feed in apparent sympathy.
Each year, 12 million tonnes of plastic enters oceans which is responsible for wiping out marine life. According to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Sperm Whales are a vulnerable species and soon will be endangered with only 200,000 remaining in the sea. We have already lost one-third of coral reefs due to ocean pollution (check out our story on coral reefs here).
If you’re thinking that you’re safe from the ocean plastic debris, think again! 70% of marine litter is non-degradable plastic. It not only chokes marine species but is also devastatingly affects the food chain. The fishes that ingest the pollutants can end up on your plates too.
Today, on Earth day, Buzz On Earth urges all our readers to reduce the use of plastic in every way possible so that the sea creatures can swim in an ocean free of pollutants.
Image – EspNaturalesMur/Twitter