Plastic in our planet’s oceans is one of the leading environmental issues that’s killing the Earth today. Mounds of garbage fill the natural aquatic world’s that make up a majority of our planet’s ecosystems, thus affecting the ecosystems of any other part of the world that requires a clean body of water to run. Plastics shed off micro-plastic particles that spread into all aspects of life and leave uncertain damage to all living and nonliving things in our world, but they don’t even need those tiny particles to cause serious damage. A small Scottish Island has become all too familiar with these kind of effects this week when a deceased young sperm whale washed to shore, the cause of death? It might have had something to do with the hundreds of pounds of plastic in its stomach.
Residents around Seilebost beach on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides discovered the young male carcass Thursday, according to CNN. According to Dan Parry, the administrator of a Luskentyre beach Facebook page which has a goal of keeping the local beaches completely litter free, the animal had a ball of plastic debris in it’s stomach weighing close to 220 pounds. This discovery was made by the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS). This organization specifically works on collecting data regarding stranded marine life animals around the Scotland area. They performed the autopsy and made the discovery of the ball of plastic debris in the sperm whales stomach.
“Among the debris, which seemingly came from both the land and fishing sector, were sections of net, plastic cups and tubing. [SMASS] could not find evidence that the waste had blocked the creature’s intestines, but it said the amount of debris could have played a part in its live stranding. 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,” according to the Facebook Posts.
The whale weighed close to 26 tons, making it impossible to move, so the autopsy was performed on the beach where the body already was. Afterwards, members of the coast guard and the council of the Western Isles all gathered to help bury the whales body on the beach. The burial was meant to keep the young whale close to the world it unfortunately never got the chance to fully explore, but at least it would lay there for the rest of eternity.
This isn’t the first time Europe in general has faced a beached whale epidemic due to plastic ingestion. Back in May, Sicily discovered one out of five different whale carcass’ that had washed to shore within a five month span. All the causes of death were due to plastic ingestion. Scientists often suggest that whales ingest plastic bags more than anything, because they often look exactly like squid, a common prey for certain whale species.
“Debris in our oceans is everyone’s problem – the fishing industry need to do better, but equally, we all need to do more. Watching this today, makes me despair for the environment, totally falling apart around us,” said Parry, who added on Facebook that he himself goes and cleans the local beaches of litter and plastic every single day.
Parry isn’t incorrect in his call onto the fishing industry to change their ways, as a majority of litter in our ocean’s is stranded materials from industrial fishing boats. However, there is also a major call to action for everyone on the planet to reduce their toxic single use plastic product use, and recycle, to prevent further unnecessary marine life death.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.