Whale found dead with ‘horrific’ 100kg of litter in stomach

Image: SMASS

Monday, December 2, 2019

A sperm whale that died while stranded on a Scottish beach has been found to have around 100kg of plastic litter in its stomach.

Members of the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) performed a “necropsy”, or autopsy, on the 20 tonne animal on Luskentyre beach on the Isle of Harris over the weekend.

It revealed a bundle of marine debris made up of net, rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing.

In a SMASS Facebook post, the organisation said that while it could not find evidence that the rubbish led to the whale beaching, the amount of plastic was “horrific”.

The litter included netting, rope and plastic cups. Image: SMASS 

“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.

“It is also perhaps a good example that this is a global issue caused by a whole host of human activities.”

The whale is thought to have become stuck on the sandbanks and died on Thursday morning. SMASS said the ball of litter looked as if it had been there “for some time”.

It said the debris appeared to have come from both the land and fishing sectors, adding that it could have been swallowed at any point between Norway and the Azores.

SMASS is continuing to investigate the whale, which "wasn't in particularly poor condition”, to try to work out why it ended up with such a large volume of litter in its stomach.

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