Cetacean stranding, more commonly known as beached whales, is not an uncommon occurrence around the globe. About 2000 animals beach themselves each year, most of them resulting in death. Last week, a twenty-ton sperm whale was found stranded on the beach of an island in Scotland.
A disturbing video of the beached whales shows its insides exploding after the mammal was cut open to perform a necropsy (another word for autopsy). That is when researchers discovered an alarming 220-pound ball of trash inside its belly.
The Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) posted on Facebook that it discovered the juvenile male animal on November 28th on the Isle of Harris on the Outer Hebrides, but were unable to reach the whale until 48 hours after it was stranded.
Researches posted a video showing the insides of the whale popping out after they had cut it open. The group explained that whales are well insulated due to their immense size which keeps them warm even posthumous, allowing them to decompose quickly. This condition often causes their insides to “explode”.
Posted by Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme on Sunday, December 1, 2019
However, the more shocking aspect of the discovery was the amount of garbage found inside the sea creature.
Inside the whale’s belly, researchers found a giant wrapped up ball of marine debris which included Pieces of netting, bundles of rope, plastic cups, plastic bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing which weighed a total of 220 pounds.
SMASS posted graphic images of the disturbing discovery on social media.
SMASS also stated that the whale seemed to have been in good condition prior to its stranding, and although the mass of garbage inside its belly may have contributed to its stranding, it does not seem to have been blocking the animal’s intestine.
The researchers stated that this amount of garbage being found inside a marine mammal is “horrific”, “must have compromised digestion” and “serves to demonstrate the hazards that marine litter and lost or discarded fishing gear can cause.”
The organization was able to discern that the garbage originated from both land and the fishing industry and was likely consumed anywhere between Norway and Azores, located west of Portugal in the mid-Atlantic Ocean.
Officials buried the beached whale on the shore as they were unable to move the twenty-ton carcass. reported SMASS.
The researchers also stated that they would continue to investigate how such a great amount of garbage managed to make its way into the creature’s stomach.
This is not the first time a sea creature was found to have alarming amounts of man-made garbage inside of them. And the deaths of many fish, mammals, and birds can be attributed to the amount of garbage, most of which is made of plastic. Even micro-plastics have been said to cause the deaths of many of these creatures.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one of the first oceanic gyres to have been reported on by NOAA in a 1998 paper. It did not draw the attention of the mainstream until more recently when an independent documentary, Plastic Paradise, brought it to the mainstream public and exposed some of the practices of the single-use plastic industry worldwide. Since then, scientists have discovered more large patches of garbage floating throughout the world’s oceans as well as entire islands covered in mostly plastic debris.
Animals, particularly birds and fish, often mistake the small pieces of plastic for food and wind up with the garbage stuck inside their bodies unable to digest them resulting in their deaths. Some more recent research has shown that much of the seafood consumed by humans contains micro-plastics which is toxic to the human body as well.
Conventional plastic contains the chemical compounds bisphenol A (BPA), nonylphenol and phthalates, all of which are considered to be carcinogenic as well as endocrine disruptors, which can cause birth defects, tumors, and developmental disorders.
Many solutions to the global plastic problem have been presented by individuals and numerous companies in recent decades. One such person is Bea Johnson, best-selling author of Zero Waste Home, who advocates for and teaches how to live free from single-use plastics. Companies such as Ecovative have created an environmentally sound alternative to Styrofoam packaging made from mycelium, the organism which mushrooms grow from.
We may be a ways off from eliminating single-use plastic from our lives, and we may have a long way to go before we reverse the damage done to our oceans thus far, but being aware and making an effort is certainly a good start.
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