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An Epidemic of Plastic-Filled Whales A Story About Plastics in our Oceans

In the year between July 2018 and June 2019 alone five whales have been found dead or dying on or near popular coastlines, and autopsies have shown them to be full of alarming volumes of plastic waste.

Plastics end up inside animals like whales in several ways. Baleen whales filter hundreds of thousands of litres of water through their baleen daily in search of their food, and they bioaccumulate enormous quantities of microplastics in the process. Toothed whales bite and swallow their prey without chewing, and can swallow large plastic pieces they encounter this way. They also ingest any plastic that happens to be already inside their prey. In this way plastic builds up in their digestive tract: cutting and tearing their guts, blocking their ability to digest food, leaching toxic endocrine disruptors, and weakening the whale to become vulnerable to disease and predators.

It has been estimated that only 2-6% of whale carcasses wash up on shores to be discovered by humans: most whales die in the deep ocean and fall to the seafloor. As their bodies decay the plastic inside them will eventually be released back into the ocean ecosystem to sicken and kill further marine animals.

References + Further Reading:

  • www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/04/dead-pregnant-whale-plastic-italy/
  • www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/04/dead-pregnant-whale-plastic-italy/
  • www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-whale/sperm-whale-washed-up-in-indonesia-had-plastic-bottles-bags-in-stomach-idUSKCN1NP11F
  • www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-46275742

www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-44344468

www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47608949

www.greenpeace.org/italy/comunicato-stampa/5428/greenpeace-four-sperm-whales-dead-in-the-italian-seas-in-less-than-a-week-plastic-found-in-two-of-them-our-seas-are-sending-us-a-cry-of-alarm/

globalnews.ca/news/5295800/sperm-whale-dead-plastic-sicily/

edition.cnn.com/2019/05/20/europe/sperm-whale-sicily-plastic-stomach-intl-scli/index.html

www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-03/whale-dies-in-thailand-after-swallowing-80-plastic-bags/9829480

www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/1478049/8kg-of-plastic-garbage-found-in-grounded-whale

en.mercopress.com/2019/04/03/eight-meter-sperm-whale-found-dead-in-sardinia-with-22kgs-of-plastic-in-its-belly

www.treehugger.com/plastic/plastic-filled-whales-should-be-wakeup-call-humans.html?utm_source=TreeHugger+Newsletters&utm_campaign=fc22093640-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_11_16_2018_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_32de41485d-fc22093640-243781513

www.treehugger.com/plastic/whale-died-philippines-40-kilograms-plastic-its-stomach.html

Created By
Pia Leo
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