The world’s oceans are supposed to be a haven for marine wildlife but have instead become some of humankind’s largest landfills. If you ever explore the sea, be it the coastline or deep beneath the surface, then you’re almost guaranteed to find remnants of trash, including but not limited to an assortment of plastics.
Plastic pollution imposes a horrendous toll on the environment and its comprising wildlife. So many innocent animals, including sea birds, sea turtles, and whales, mistakenly devour our garbage after thinking it’s a type of food. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen time and time again, the consumption of plastic often results in an untimely death for marine animals – and perhaps a painful one at that.
Image Credit: SEAME Sardinia/Facebook
Unfortunately, all that plastic pollution is still out there, and marine animals continue to fall victim to our garbage as it grows legs and wanders off into the ocean. One of the latest horror stories on the matter involves a deceased sperm whale that washed up on the Italian island of Sardinia this week, and to make matters worse, she was purportedly pregnant when she died.
“Plastic is one of the worst enemies of marine species,” the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said on Monday in a condemning statement concerning marine plastic pollution. “The amount of plastic found in the cetacean’s digestive tract was practically intact, and the proportion between the size of the animal and the ingested plastic is particularly significant.”
Related: Plastic pollution to blame for harp seal's untimely death
The deceased whale was only about 26 feet long, and yet she had managed to swallow more than 48 pounds’ worth of plastic. Specialists performed a necropsy to determine the cause of death, and during the procedure, they extracted a bevy of plastic items including a corrugated tube, plastic bottles, plastic plates, plastic shopping bags, and fishing line, among other things.
Experts also indicated that her fetus was likely dead long before she passed away. The mother had so much plastic in her gut that she was unable to digest any of the real food she devoured. Consequently, the fetus likely suffered from malnourishment, once again putting the plastic pollution at the forefront of the tragedy.
Many countries are now imposing plastic shopping bag bans to help mitigate problems of this nature going forward; unfortunately, the damage is already done. Plastic will linger in our oceans for generations to come, if not forever, unless someone cleans it up. But that’s easier said than done, as much of this garbage sinks to the bottom of the deepest parts of the ocean.
Related: Stomach of a deceased sperm whale in Indonesia had a stomach full of plastic
If seeing things like this in the news gives you an uneasy feeling in your gut, then perhaps you can do something about it. You can reduce your personal plastic usage and encourage folks in your community to recycle their plastic instead of tossing it back into the environment. Small steps like these can make the world a better place.
Source: NYTimes, USA Today, SEAME Sardinia (Facebook)