Wildlife officials in Indonesia are sounding the alarm after a dead whale was found with 1,000 pieces of plastic in its stomach, including a pair of flip-flops and 115 drinking cups.
The sperm whale was found dead on a beach in Wakatobi in the southeastern part of the country. As the Guardian reported, rescuers found the rotting carcass of the 31-foot whale and noted that nearby villagers had started to butcher the carcass.
Heri Santoso, the local park chief, said what they found inside the whale was alarming.
“Santoso said researchers from wildlife conservation group WWF and the park’s conservation academy found about 5.9kg (13lbs) of plastic waste in the animal’s stomach containing 115 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, two flip-flops, a nylon sack and more than 1,000 other assorted pieces of plastic.”
While officials were not able to determine if the plastic in the whale’s stomach caused its death, the finding was disturbing to wildlife experts and highlighted the problems growing in the region’s oceans. Indonesia is known as the world’s second-largest plastic polluter after China, with 1.3 million tons of plastic ending up in the ocean every year, the Guardian reported.
Wildlife experts have warned that vast stretches of the Pacific Ocean have turned into “dead zones” due to large swaths of floating plastic pollution. As National Geographic reported, an estimated 18 billion pounds of plastic waste enter the oceans each year, killing scores of ocean wildlife that accidentally consume the plastics or suffocate as a result of it.
The magazine reported that a number of countries and companies are teaming up to take action, instituting programs to cut back on plastic waste. That includes a recent ban from the European Parliament on single-use plastics across the continent.
“Citing a need to protect the ocean from a deluge of plastic pollution, the bill calls for a European ban on plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers, and balloon sticks, as well as reductions in other types of single-use plastics like food and beverage containers,” the report noted.
Others have cut back on single-use plastic straws, with some restaurant chains and stores eliminating them entirely. Many have also copied the European Parliament in banning plastic shopping bags, encouraging shoppers to take re-usable, fabric-based bags instead.
Officials in Indonesia have been trying to curb plastic pollution even before the death of the whale with a stomach filled with plastic, including cutting back on plastic bags and increasing education about reducing pollution.