7-Yr-Old Sperm Whale Found Dead With Stomach Full Of Plastics In Italy

Debarghya Sil

May 22nd, 2019 / 7:45 PM

Whale Killed Plastics

Image Credit: Facebook/ Carmelo Isgro

The concerns of environmental campaigners on the growing presence of plastics in the marine biology were realized after Greenpeace Italia, reported that a sperm whale was found dead on an Italian beach with a stomach full of plastic.

Greenpeace Italia said the carcass of the young mammal which is estimated to 7-year-old had washed up on the famous tourist beach Cefalu, on the coast of Sicily on May 17. This is the fifth dead sperm whale that washed ashore in the last five months in Italy.

Several pictures and videos of the juvenile dead whale were posted on the Facebook and Instagram pages by Greenpeace. In the video, the officials are seen cutting open the whale’s carcass and revealing the presence of a large amount of plastic including plastics bags.

Giorgia Monti, campaign manager of Greenpeace Italia, said, “As you can see from the images we’re sharing, a lot of plastic was found in its stomach.” The cause of death is yet to be found. Monti, in his statement, however, mentioned that the presence of so much of plastics in the body cannot be rebuffed. He said, “A probe of the sperm whale’s death has just started, and we don’t know yet if the animal died because of this, but we certainly can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”

On May 19, one of the experts, Carmelo Isgro who performed a necropsy on the dead whale, shared explicit videos and images of the process. In the video, Isgro can be seen differentiating, squids and plastics objects that were present in the stomach.

He was quoted in the CNN saying: “several kilograms worth of plastic” were found in the stomach. He further said that the plastics present in the whale might have created a block that prevented food, resulting in the whale to die. “That’s very likely to be the cause of death. We have not found signs that could indicate another possible reason”. Underscoring the age of the whale, he said that the whale was so young that “her teeth haven’t come out yet.”

Not The First Incident

This is not the first time that a dead whale filled with plastics was washed ashore. In 2018 a dead whale was found on the shore in eastern Indonesia. The rescuers found out that around 5.9 kg of plastic consisting of 25 plastic bags, two flip flops, and 115 drinking cups, and more than 1,000 other assorted pieces of plastic was inside the whale.

In April, a pregnant whale was discovered with 22 kg of plastics in her stomach, in Italy. Plastic plates, tarps, fishing nets, a sack of detergent and black trash bags were found in her stomach.

These incidents are a clear proof that human-produced wastes are killing marine life. According to Notwhalefood.com, somewhere between 5 and 13 million tonnes of plastics leak every year in the oceans. This is more than the total weight of every single blue whale on Earth. It was further found out that around 56% of all whale and dolphin species mistake plastic for food.

Plastics Lowering Down Oxygen Level

Plastics slipping into oceans are not only harming marine animals but posing a severe threat to the entire ecosystem. In a recent study, researchers have found that gradual rise in plastics in oceans is lowering the oxygen level. The study found that Prochorococcus, a bacteria which just like plants undergoes photosynthesis by taking in Carbon Dioxide and releases Oxygen. The said bacteria attribute 20% of the seawater Oxygen.

The researchers found out that the bacteria are taking CO2 and plastic toxins which leached into the water. It was found that in an artificially made environment, increasing plastic leachates resisted the growth of the bacteria, eventually killing them.

Directly or indirectly, we somehow are behind the cause plastic that is slipping into oceans and ruining the marine ecosystem. A quick action to remove tonnes and tonnes of plastic from oceans is the need of the hour, before it gets impossible to do so. The first step could be to clean numerous sea beaches and make them plastic free.

Also Read: 40 Kg Of Plastic Found In Stomach Of Dead Whale In The Philippines


Written by : Debarghya Sil

Edited by : Shweta Kothari

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