Sperm whale dies with 100kg of plastic in its stomach

Elias Hubbard
December 3, 2019

Warning: Some images in this story are graphic and may be disturbing to some viewers.

It died shortly thereafter, a representative with the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS), part of the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme at Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) in Aberdeen, wrote on Facebook on December 1. It had already been dead for about 48 hours.

The nets, bundles of rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing totalled about 100 kilograms, the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme reported on its Facebook page Sunday.

A male sperm whale was found dead with over 220 lbs. of debris in its stomach.

"If you go to the beach today, there should be nearly no evidence that there was a large sperm whale necropsy undertaken there this weekend", they wrote.

When SMASS workers began a necropsy, dissecting the whale on the shore, they discovered "a whole range of plastic" tangled into a ball and nestled inside the whale's gut.

"All this material was in a huge ball in the stomach, and some of it looked like it had been there for some time", said the group, funded by the Scottish and United Kingdom governments to track marine animal strandings on Scottish coastlines.

Due to the difficulties of transporting the carcass, the whale was buried at the beach.

The organization 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.

However, writing on Facebook they said: "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".

Both the Coastguard and the Western Isles Council's disposal team helped the organization bury the whale following their autopsy.

The whale was young - a subadult - and it is not yet clear why the otherwise healthy mammal died.

The necropsy for the whale was done on the beach because it was impossible to transport the 20-ton marine animal.

"Debris in our oceans is everyone's problem".

Inside the whale was a condensed mass of fishing debris and land trash.

According to figures from the organization, the number of whale and dolphin stranding in Scotland are rising, with 204 reports a decade ago and more than 930 previous year.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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