A male sperm whale has washed ashore in Scotland with 220 pounds of garbage in its stomach.
The Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) discovered the mass of debris while investigating the carcass on Luskentyre Beach. In a Facebook post, the term wrote that the trash “exploded” from the dead animal’s body as they cut it open, but could not say whether that was the reason it had died.
“In this whale’s stomach was approximately 100kg [220 lbs.] of marine debris — a whole range of plastic including sections of net, bundles of rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing,” the team posted to Facebook. “All this material was in a huge ball in the stomach and some of it looked like it had been there for some time.
“The animal wasn’t in particularly poor condition, and whilst it is certainly plausible that this amount of debris was a factor in its live stranding, we actually couldn’t find evidence that this had impacted or obstructed the intestines. This amount of plastic in the stomach is nonetheless horrific, must have compromised digestion, and serves to demonstrate, yet again, the hazards that marine litter and lost or discarded fishing gear can cause to marine life.”
The SMSS post indicated that the debris found in the whale was from “both the land and fishing sectors.” According to the BBC, litter and water pollution is a common sight around Luskentyre Beach.
“We walk on these beaches nearly every day and I always take a bag to pick up litter, most of which is fishing-related,” local resident Dan Parry told the BBC. “This stuff could have easily been netting or the like lost in a storm, we just don’t know, but it does show the scale of the problem we have with marine pollution.”
The SMSS investigation will continue until the team can determine how the animal died. Meanwhile, comments on the post have called for some serious changes to the way people behave around Luskentyre Beach.
“A same incident happened in North Eastern part of Somalia last week where a black whale stranded and died on the beach of Qaw village,” wrote one commenter. “We are destroying both our lives and the rights of our future generations to meet their needs. Let us stand against the ferocious exploitation of our natural resources and shattering the lives of those who give us all the means of life.”
“Even if it didn’t actually kill the whale, the amount and type of rubbish in the stomach was horrendous!!! We, as humans, really have a lot to answer for!” another wrote.
“I do regular beach cleans while walking my dogs. Plastics is generally what my bags fill up with most, and I’d say followed on by ropes. Hate it hate it. And heliums a real pet hate of mine with all that ribbon,” wrote another.
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.