In the past 6 months, at least 5 whales have been reported that have been found dead with stomachs full of plastic trash.
It’s quite possibly one of the most distressing and vile things one can imagine: having one’s digestive tract filled to capacity with plastic waste that cannot be expelled that death eventually results from starvation. That’s exactly what is happening to marine mammals worldwide.
There have been at least 5 reported cases in the past 7 months of whales being found washed ashore with their insides filled with plastic waste that they had ingested in the oceans. In November, a sperm whale was found with 13 pounds of plastic. The trash included more than 100 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, two flip-flops and countless other pieces of plastic, WWF-Indonesia said in a Facebook statement. On February 27, a young male sperm whale was found dead on the shores of Spain with 65 pounds of plastic trash so impacted it began to rip apart his guts from the inside. In March, a whale was found dead in the Philippines with “plastic in some areas was so compact it was almost becoming calcified, almost like a solid brick.” This whale had a grotesque 88 pounds of plastic in his body. On April 1, a dead pregnant sperm whale washed up on the shores of Sardinia, Italy with 49 pounds of plastic trash. Most recently in May in Sicily, a sperm whale so young her teeth hadn’t even come in, was found dead with a stomach full of plastic.
These are just the cases that are washing up.
Whales are not the only sea life facing death from human activity. In 2014, Al Lethbridge made a video about the death of albatross on Midway Island. Midway Island is 2000 miles away from the nearest continent and yet the birds are stuffed with plastic trash that they had eaten. OceanCrusaders.org shares some horrific statistics: They estimate that some “100,000 marine animals are killed each year from plastic. About 1 million sea birds a year die from plastic. 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea. There are believed to be 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of the ocean. Every year, 6.4 million tonnes are dumped into the ocean. This is the same as 3,200 kilometers of trucks each loaded with garbage.” You can visit their websitefor more of these saddening facts.
There are at least 5 known trash pile-ups in the Earth’s Oceans. The Great North Pacific Gyre is the largest being more than twice the size of the United States. Not only does some of the trash end up in the stomachs of sea life like whales and birds, but the plastic continues to break down into microscopic pieces, which are being found in the fish that humans consume. The plastic also contains endocrine-disrupting chemicals that once consumed by small sea creatures enter the food chain and are eventually consumed by people.
It is clear that something needs to change. How long can the Earth’s ocean sustain such abuse? Whales are making the spotlight of this mess since they show the evidence so clearly and on such a large scale. But even the tiniest ocean creatures are consuming microplastics. It’s no surprise that microplastics are showing up in human feces. Maybe this will be the wakeup call. Maybe once humans start dying from plastic ingestion they will stop hitting the snooze button and rise up to the alarms.