Twenty-nine sperm whales were found stranded on shores around the North Sea in January, an area that is too shallow for the marine wildlife. Just recently details of the animals’ necropsy were released. The scientists involved were deeply disturbed by what they found within the animals’ stomachs.
According to this press release from Wadden Sea National Park in Schleswig-Holstein, most of the whales had stomachs which were full of plastic debris! This included a fishing net which was 13 meters long, a 70 centi-meter plastic car part and various other pieces of plastic litter.
Some assume that the animals mistook the items as food, such as their main dietary staple squid. However, others believe that this tragic waste of life is due to humanity’s shocking disregard for marine life, which has resulted in an a large amount of waste plastic in the oceans.
Robert Habeck, environment minister for the state of Schleswig-Holstein Stated:
“These findings show us the results of our plastic-oriented society. Animals inadvertently consume plastic and plastic waste, which causes them to suffer, and at worst, causes them to starve with full stomachs.”
Nicola Hodgkins of Whale and Dolphin Conservation echoed that statement. She stated:
“Although the large pieces will cause obvious problems and block the gut, we shouldn’t dismiss the smaller bits that could cause a more chronic problem for all species of cetacean – not just those who suction feed.”
This isn’t the first occasion a sperm whale has been found dead with insides full of inedible contents. A young whale was found floating dead off the Greek island of Mykonos in 2011. Its stomach was so distended, biologists believed the animal had swallowed a giant squid. However, upon dissection of its four stomachs, nearly 100 plastic bags and other pieces of debris were found inside.
It should be made clear that plastic is not what killed the young male sperm whales. National Geographic stated they died of heart failure. This was a due to the whales mistakenly swimming into the North Sea (most likely in search of squid) and as a result of the whales being trapped in shallow water they were unable to support their own body weights, this is what caused their internal organs to collapse.
Regardless of this fact, most of the whales had stomachs that were full of pollution and this is a horrible fact is the sole responsibility of humans.
In the past it has been reported that 80% of the plastic which is thrown away on land gets discarded into the oceans, where it is often consumed by all forms of wildlife or swirls for many years in large garbage patches.
The fact that humans – a species with a smaller brain than the sperm whales mentioned in this article – are solely responsible for such a disastrous impact on nature is ironic and saddening.
Until humans educate themselves with the value of sustainable living and also learn to respect all life forms, environmental disasters such as this one will continue to happen.
Below is a video showing the devastating effects of waste plastic from the ocean being eaten by birds:
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