Last week, tourists in Sardinia, Italy, were shocked when they spotted the large carcass of a sperm whale stranded on the beach.
Tragically, the whale was pregnant, carrying a dead fetus…and she had 49 pounds of plastic waste in her stomach.
Luca Bittau, president of the SeaMe non-profit organization in Sardinia, told CNN the stomach of the pregnant whale contained “garbage bags … fishing nets, lines, tubes, the bag of a washing machine liquid still identifiable, with brand and barcode … and other objects no longer identifiable.”
Sadly, the young pregnant whale was extremely malnourished, most likely a result of the plastic taking up so much space in her stomach.
It’s believed that she lost her baby shortly before she beached and passed away herself.
The official cause of death will be announced after histological and toxicological examinations, but it’s clear to many that the ingested pollution is what caused the pregnant whale to pass away.
Italy’s environmental minister, Sergio Costa, commented on the tragic circumstances of the whale’s death, saying in a Facebook post: “Are there still people who say these are not important problems? For me they are, and they are priorities.”
Disposable plastic items that have been a deadly threat to wildlife for a very long time. Animals in a variety of environments have been terribly affected by the pollution humans create.
European Parliament hopes to pass a law banning single-use plastic items, such as straws, cotton buds, and cutlery, by 2021. Costa hopes that Italy will be one of the first countries to implement it.
This problem doesn’t just affect Europe, however. It is a global crisis. Billions of pounds of plastic have been dumped into our oceans; over 40% of the world’s ocean surface is covered in plastic waste.
Humans need to make a change soon, or else more innocent creatures like this sperm whale will suffer and die. Unfortunately, we see this kind of tragedy far too often.