Environmental conservationists have expressed their “anger” after a beached whale has been found with 16kg of plastic waste inside its stomach
The cetacean, which was a female Cuvier’s beaked whale measuring just over 5 meters in length, washed up on a beach in Messanges within south-west France, which is on the Atlantic coast, with 16kg of plastic waste inside its stomach.
The beached whale’s partially decomposed body was discovered by passers by on Saturday, May the 8the, and an autopsy that was carried out by environmental conservation groups Pelagis Observatory and Itsas Arima found that its ingestion of an enormous quantity of plastic waste led to its death.
These plastic waste products included shopping bags and packets of pasta, as well as crisp wrappers.
Pelagis‘ stranding network coordinator, Willy Dabin, explained that, “This waste lines the walls of the stomach and intestines, which can cause blockages and prevent nutrients from entering the blood.” (via TVA Nouvelles).
This comes after rescuers have managed to free a small minke whale which became stranded in the River Thames in west London. The whale, which is thought to have been a young minke whale, was first spotted at around 7pm on Sunday at Richmond Lock and Weir.
Pascal Ducasse, who is a correspondent for Pelagis, described his “anger” at the situation, and said that it is “abnormal for an animal to die like that.”
“This is the first time that I have seen this in seven years of activity,” he added (via France Bleu).
The autopsy of the whale found that the animal had been suffering from a parasitic condition that was affecting its kidneys, and which would have had a significant impact on the whale’s hunting activities.
Cuvier’s beaked whales are known to be active hunters that dive thousands of feet below the surface of the ocean to seek out various species of squid, deep-sea fish and other prey, but some the experts believe that its illness would have rendered this particular animal incapable of hunting for food in its usual manner.
Instead, it would have fed on anything it could find that was close to the surface of the water.
Pelagis has said that most species of sea creatures are affected by plastic waste, with turtles often mistaking plastic product waste for jellyfish.
However, cetaceans often ingest plastics and other forms of waste through bio-accumulation, which is when they unwittingly consume other lifeforms that themselves have ingested plastic.
This comes after microbiologists have devised a new sustainable way of removing polluting microplastics from the environment, and they want to use bacteria to achieve this feat.
“A dolphin knows how to recognize a piece of plastic unlike a turtle for example,” Itsas Arima explained in a post on Facebook.
“But in this case, how can you explain that there were so many in her stomach and fed directly? We found that the animal was skinny and had a major parasitic condition that weakens it, probably preventing it from continuing to feed itself normally.
“So she backed up on what was around her and he came across… our trash.”
Though the Cuvier’s beaked whale may have died as a result of its illness alone, the scientific experts believe that its consumption of the plastic waste had significantly accelerated its death.