[SOURCE] On July 29, 2013, a sperm whale was stranded on Tershelling, a northern island in the Netherlands. A rescue was attempted, but unfortunately the whale died. The young adult, measuring 13.5 meters, was taken for a necropsy at the port of Harlington. The sperm whale had plastic in its stomach, an increasing common phenomenon say researchers at the Biodiversity Centre Naturalis.
Avoidable deaths caused by ingestion of inorganic materials are not uncommon in marine mammals.
- In 1989, a stranded sperm whale in the Lavezzi Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea died of a stomach obstruction after accidentally ingesting plastic bags and 100 feet of plastic sheeting.
- In 1990, a sperm whale examined for pathology in Iceland died of an obstruction of the gut with plastic marine debris.
- In August of 2008, a sperm whale washed up in Point Reyes, California with 450 pounds of fishing net, rope, and plastic bags in its stomach.
- The California Marine Mammal Stranding Database tells of another sperm whale stranded in 2008 with stomach contents that included an extensive amount of netting from discarded fishing gear.
This, and the fact squids are found in their stomachs whole and seldom show bite marks, lead to a theory that the lower jaw plays no significant role in catching of prey and that these sperm whales instead suck their food in. If this theory is true, sperm whales are just as vulnerable as baleen whales to the ingestion of marine debris.
Plastic is not digestible, and once it finds its way into the intestines, accumulates and clogs the intestines. For some whales, the plastic does not kill the animal directly, but cause malnutrition and disease, which leads to unnecessary suffering until death.
Whales are not the only victims to our trash. It is estimated that over one million birds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year from plastic debris. In September 2009, photographs of albatross chicks on Midway Atoll were brought to the public’s eye. These nesting chicks were fed bellies full of plastic by their parents who soar over vastly polluted oceans collecting what looks to them to be food. This diet of human trash kills tens of thousands of albatross chicks each year on Midway because of starvation, toxicity, and choking. Warning: through brutal honesty, this video may be tear inducing!
We can all do our part by limiting our use of plastic products such as shopping bags, party balloons, straws, and plastic bottles. Be a frugal shopper and practice the 3 Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle! Share this post, this video, this picture- and whatever you do, think before you throw away!
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