When a seemingly healthy whale washes up dead on shore scientists go to work trying to uncover what killed the marine giant. Time and time again, researchers come to the same heartbreaking conclusion: Whales are eating plastic trash, dying, and washing ashore.
In April of 2014, a young male whale washed up on the shores of Terschelling, a northern island in the Netherlands. When the whale was first discovered he was still alive, but rescuers were unable to save him. Researchers took a look inside of the unnaturally bloated whale to see what caused his premature death. What they found is enough to make you hate mankind.
Inside the massive whale’s stomach sat two small flowerpots, a plastic spray canister, nine meters of ropes, two hosepipes, and over 37 pounds of plastic. Cause of death? Intestinal blockage.
This also happened closer to home — as in, close to Grist’s home in Seattle — three years ago:
In May 2013, a gray whale that died after stranding itself on a west Seattle beach was found to have more than 20 plastic bags, small towels, surgical gloves, plastic pieces, duct tape, a pair of sweat pants, and a golf ball, not to mention other garbage contained in its stomach.
Sadly, these whales are far from the only ones. In 2015, a mature sperm whale was found stranded near the town of Tongshi in Taiwan. Rescuers were able to successfully return the whale to sea, but only 3-days later the very same whale washed up dead on shore.
When researchers did some digging into his cause of death they once again uncovered a stomach full of plastic bags and fishing nets.
Since sperm whales consume 80% of their diet in squid, it’s assumed they may confuse plastic for squid. Still, regardless of what marine animals eat, more and more species from all around the world are turning up dead with bellies full of plastic.
The true toll plastic pollution plays in ocean habitats continues to become increasingly clear. 80% of ocean pollution comes directly from land, which means everyone contributes to the problem and in turn everyone can help reduce it.
Clearly, it’s time to reduce the use of plastic as much as possible and be sure to safely and responsibly throw away or recycle all of your trash so that it has a decreased risk of ending up in the ocean. Otherwise, your plastic trash could end up contributing to the death of an innocent whale or other sea creature.
Please pass it on!