We’ve known about the tons of plastic floating in our ocean for years. Unfortunately, knowing about it isn’t enough to help the marine life that’s being literally strangled to death by garbage, much less the massive Sperm whale that recently washed ashore in Indonesia, dead.
Its stomach was filled with 13 pounds of plastic waste, “including 115 drinking cups, 25 plastic bags, plastic bottles, two flip-flops and a bag containing more than 1,000 pieces of string,” National Geographic reports.
Measuring 31 feet long, the whale washed up on the island of Kapota, at the Wakatobi National Park.
The Sperm whale diet ordinarily consists of squid, octopus, crustaceans and small sharks, but as their natural habitat becomes more and more polluted with plastic, non-organic substances are more likely to make their way into the whales’ stomachs.
“Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts that we see are truly awful,” Dwi Suprati, a marine conservation coordinator at World Wildlife Fund Indonesia told the
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It doesn’t help that Indonesia is one of the top contributors of plastic pollution in the world.
“Between 1.15 million and 2.41 million tons of plastic waste contaminate the oceans each year,” according to the Borgen Project. “Of this, Indonesia is estimated to contribute roughly 200,000 tons of waste from its rivers and streams.”
Researchers estimate the country’s plastic pollution will top 9 and a half million tons by 2019, 14 percent of its total waste.
Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister of maritime affairs, hopes that the whale’s death will bring more sustainable practices into focus, News24 reports. He is urging the Indonesian government to reduce its reliance on plastic.
“I’m so sad to hear this,” Pandjaitan said. “It is possible that many other marine animals are also contaminated with plastic waste and this is very dangerous for our lives.”
Following Pandjaitan’s lead, the Indonesian government will ask shops to use paper bags, instead of plastic, and teach school children about the dangers of plastic pollution. A nationwide goal of reducing plastic use by 70 percent by 2025 has also been set.
“This big ambition can be achieved if people learn to understand that plastic waste is a common enemy,” Pandjaitan told the AP.
Sperm whales live in every ocean on the planet, and are considered endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
Learn more in the video below.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.