Updated: Jun 12, 2022
A dead whale washed up in the Philippines on 16th March 2019. It was found to have died from 'gastric shock' after swallowing 40 kgs of plastic bags (that's 88 pounds).
The young 15-foot long Cuvier's beaked whale's death has shocked marine biologists and volunteers. They are accustomed to death by rubbish. However, of the many whales and dolphins they have found dead as a result of plastic ingestion in the past decade, this is quite the worst case. Or so they thought.
A tragic and unnecessary death. Easy to dismiss as a problem that happens elsewhere? Blame poor recycling habits in Asia where 'they don't know how to manage their plastic'?
A whale found dead in Spain in February 2019 had 29 kgs (64 pounds) of plastic in its intestines.
A sperm whale that beached then died in Scotland in December 2019 was found to have nets, bundles of rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing totalled about 100 kgs in its stomach, according to the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme. That's a shocking approximately 220 pounds.
In Australia, in December 2020 the CSIRO reported on a study of a sperm whale which had eaten 135 different items, most of those items being plastic bags.
It's not only a recent phenomenon. As long ago as 1999, Brazilian scientists reported on plastic debris found to have been ingested by a Blainville’s beaked whale washed ashore at São José do Norte, southern Brazil.
A 2020 Oceana report found nearly 1,800 instances since 2009 in which a marine mammal or sea turtle swallowed or became entangled in plastic waste along the coast of the United States Overall, the report found animals from 40 species were harmed by plastic, including six species of sea turtles, three species of seals and three of whales.
Surely we can all do better than this?
Note: Like these great ocean creatures, plastic moves around the world. It is carried on ocean currents to the furthest corners of our planet. It is not a local problem, but it is most assuredly everyone's problem.