A male sperm whale was found dead with over 220 lbs. of debris in its stomach.
On Thursday, members from the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) were called to investigate a dead sperm whale found on Scotland’s Luskentyre Beach.
Upon arriving at the scene 48 hours later, the whale experts dissected the aquatic animal to try and determine the cause of death. In a Facebook post, they said it was not immediately clear if the “litter” contributed to the whale’s death but called their findings “horrific.”
“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 post, shared on Sunday, read. “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,” the post continued. “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 locals who found the carcass and called the SMASS told the BBC that marine pollution was an ongoing problem in the area.
“We walk on these beaches nearly every day and I always take a bag to pick up litter, most of which is fishing-related,” Dan Parry, who lives in Luskentyre, told the outlet. “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.”
According to the SMASS, the waste found in the whale’s stomach likely came from both the “land and fishing sectors.”
Both the Coastguard and the Western Isles Council’s disposal team helped the organization bury the whale following their autopsy.
SMASS said their investigation isn’t complete just yet. “We are looking in more detail to see if we can work out quite why this animal ended up with so much of it in its stomach,” their post read.
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