A sperm whale found washed up on the Spanish coast in February didn’t die from shark attacks or beaching itself, marine experts say.
The 33-foot, 6-ton whale died of gastric shock after eating 64 pounds of plastic, including bags, nets, ropes and even a plastic gas can, reported The Telegraph. Marine experts discovered the rubbish inside the male cetacean’s stomach and intestines Friday during a necropsy, or animal autopsy.
The death of the whale, which had been found on a beach in Cabo de Palos in the Murcia region of Spain at the end of February, highlights growing concern about plastic waste and other litter in the world’s oceans, officials told the publication.
“Many animals get trapped in the rubbish or ingest great quantities of plastic which end up causing their death,” Consuelo Rosauro, director-general for the natural environment in the Murcian regional government, told The Telegraph.
Experts from the El Valle Wildlife Recovery Center in Spain determined the whale died when the plastic blocked its digestive system, reported The Independent. The blockage caused the whale to develop peritonitis, an infection of the abdomen, leading to its death.
A report by the United Kingdom Government Office for Science predicts the amount of plastic littering the oceans will triple within a decade. The report found that 70 percent of marine litter consists of non-biodegradable plastic.
In July, experts found a massive island of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean, according to National Geographic. The garbage, found off the coasts of Chile and Peru, spans more than a milion square miles in size – larger than the nation of Mexico. But it’s not all rubbish like bags or bottles. Such patches also include microplastic particles, or tiny, confetti-like pieces of plastic.
And Henderson Island, halfway between Chile and New Zealand, earned the dubious title for the world’s most polluted island in May when researchers discovered an estimated 38 million pieces of plastic washed up on its shores, reported NBC News. The rubbish includes toy soldiers, dominos, toothbrushes and hard hats, along with the ubiquitous bags and bottles.
The plastic littering the world’s oceans poses a severe threat to whales and other marine life, experts say.
In February 2017, a Cuvier’s beaked whale – a type of beaked whale found in all the world’s oceans – was discovered dying off the coast of Norway with more than 30 pounds of plastic in its digestive system, reported an earlier story in The Telegraph. The emaciated whale was destroyed after marine experts determined it could not survive.