July 29, 2013, a sperm whale was stranded on Tershelling, a northern island in the Netherlands. A rescue attempt was attempted, but unfortunately the whale died. A young adult at 13.5 meters was taken for a necropsy at the port of Harlington. The sperm whale had plastic in its stomach, an increasing common phenomenon say researchers at the Biodiversity Centre Naturalis.
In March of this year, a 10 meter long sperm whale washed up on Spain’s South Coast. This whale had swallowed 59 different plastic items totaling over 37 pounds.
Most of this plastic consisted of transparent sheeting used to build greenhouses in Almeria and Grenada for the purpose of tomatoes for the European market. The rest was plastic bags, nine meters of rope, two stretches of hosepipe, two small flower pots, and a plastic spray canister. Cause of death was intestinal blockage.These are not uncommon incidents.
Plastic is not digestible, and once it finds its way into the intestines, accumulates and clogs the intestines. For some whales, the plastic does not kill the animal directly, but cause malnutrition and disease, which leads to unnecessary suffering until death.
Whales are not the only victims to our trash. It is estimated that over one million birds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year from plastic debris. In September 2009, photographs of albatross chicks on Midway Atoll were brought to the public’s eye.