A 22-foot male sperm whale calf was discovered washed up at Hell’s Mouth, near Abersoch, Gwynedd. It is believed to be the first sperm whale to have washed up on a Welsh beach since the records started in 1913.
Unfortunately, the whale ended up passing away on Tuesday, October 29th in the evening. I’m sure you can probably already guess what the post-mortem exam showed. If you were thinking plastic, then you would absolutely be correct. The examination revealed several pieces of marine debris inside the animal’s stomach, and one of those pieces was a “large piece of blue plastic sheeting.”
Project manager for the Zoological Society of London’s Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme, Rob Deaville, said to BBC News, “It is not possible to accurately assess whether the ingestion of debris was a result of the whale’s presence in the abnormal habitat of shallow waters around the UK, or if other underlying issues may have played a role in their ingestion. However, it may have had some impact on the animal’s ability to digest any ingested prey. A large piece of blue plastic sheeting was found in the stomach and a relatively large mass of ropes.”
Experts also uncovered a fishing line inside the whale’s stomach, as well as “other plastic fragments, seaweed and minor nematode parasites.” However, the debris had not become impacted, meaning it hadn’t yet created a blockage inside the stomach.
Wales Online reported that experts are still puzzled as to how the malnourished and underweight male calf ended up in the UK’s more shallow waters.
Sperm whales typically live in warmer, southern waters, where they feed on giant squid. Experts are currently running tests, hoping to figure out the mystery behind how this whale ended up in the shallow waters of Hell’s Mouth.
Because of the whale’s size – it being the second smallest sperm whale on the UK’s records – experts believe that it could have come from a matriarchal pod, which is usually found in the more temperate southern waters of the UK.
ITV reported that a spokesperson for British Divers Marine Life Rescue thinks that this whale could be the youngest whale calf to ever be recorded as stranded on the shores of the UK. The calf itself was estimated to be between 2-3 years old as it still hadn’t developed teeth, meaning it was most likely still surviving on its mother’s milk.
Today a post mortem examination will be carried out by the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme- UK strandings…
The spokesperson stated, “Whales, dolphins, and porpoises…are mammals like us humans, and therefore able to carry serious diseases that can be transmitted between us. We would advise members of the public to avoid all contact with the carcass and any bodily fluids to avoid any risk of infection from them. There is the possibility that this may have been an animal that was already ill.”
Not too long ago – less than a month – another sperm whale washed up dead in the shallow waters off the Northumberland shore, close to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.
We really need to be more proactive about cleaning up our oceans. This can’t keep happening. What do you think?
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.