The heartbreaking story of a pregnant, female sperm whale washed up in Sardinia
A female sperm whale was found dead on a private beach in Sardinia and after researchers and vets further investigated why this whale had washed up, not only did they discover she was pregnant but that she had 22 kilograms of plastic filling her stomach.
This included plastic plates, fishing nets, rubbish bags and even a sack of detergent with the label still readable.
Sperm whales are a deep diving species who feast on squid, and only 12 kilograms of squid beaks were found in the whale’s stomach, suggesting that the whale was malnourished and unable to sustain her unborn calf due to the shocking amount of plastic she had consumed.
Marine biologist, Mattia Leone was present at the post mortem examination and said: “It was dramatic to find the foetus . . . we felt bad already at that point, but then when we opened the stomach and saw all the plastic, we realised, yet again, we were bearing witness to this very worrisome, sad situation.”
A toxicology test is due to take place to determine the exact cause of death, but it is highly likely that the dangerous amount of plastic this whale consumed played its part.
According to a study released by WWF last year, over 95% of the waste floating in the Mediterranean and strewn on its beaches is plastic, and the micro plastics in this area have reached record concentration levels. Marine litter from mass summer tourism contributes to this along with excessive plastic use and poor waste management.
This sad story reinforces the need for us to refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle our plastics to protect these amazing animals.
Over the past few years, across the world many steps are being taken towards removing plastic from our daily lives. Most recently the European Union has agreed to ban single use plastics by 2021 and from March 2020 single use plastic carriers bags will no longer be given to shoppers in New York.
In 2015 a carrier bag charge was introduced in the UK to try and cut down the number of plastic bags people were using and encourage people to re-use them instead of throwing them away. Since the charge was brought in the Government have said that the number of bags used has gone down by more than 80%.
By making small changes to our behaviour we can have a wider impact on the marine environment. Whether by reducing the number of plastic bags or plastic straws that you use, ensuring you recycle as much as you can, or taking part in a beach clean or picking up rubbish you see on the street, you can make a huge difference to protecting these awe-inspiring animals for future generations to see.