The body of a young sperm whale washed up on an island off the coast of Scotland this week with close to 220 pounds of garbage in its stomach, leading to an outcry from animal preservation groups.
As CNN reported, the juvenile male whale had died on Thursday after becoming stranded on Sielebost beach on the Isle of Harris. Workers from the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) conducted a necropsy on the animal and found a huge ball of debris that it had digested, the report added.
Dan Parry, who operates a Facebook page dedicated to cleaning litter from nearby Luskentyre beach, posted about the whale’s death and the role that local pollution likely played. He noted that he and other volunteers frequently comb the local beach and pick up debris, which he said often comes from the local fishing industry. Pictures of the whale’s stomach contents showed some large fishing nets, which likely led the animal to starve to death, Parry said.
“Whilst the photos are gruesome, they show us the reason for it’s untimely demise,” Parry wrote.
“Starved to death due to having a stomach full of discarded/accidentally lost fishing nets and debris.”
He added that the animal’s intestines had almost no food inside it, suggesting that its entire digestive system was blocked by the garbage.
The debris inside the sperm whale also included plastic cups and tubing, SMASS reported. The organization did not see evidence that the debris blocked the whale’s intestines, but said that it likely played a role in its stranding.
The organization has been taking action to cut down on waste, holding a recent workshop for fishermen to better report understand the risks of marine entanglement and how to mitigate the problem and report potential incidents.
A young sperm whale was found dead with nearly 220 pounds of debris in its stomach, including fishing nets, ropes and plastic cups.
— AJ+ (@ajplus) December 2, 2019
Ellie MacLennan, coordinator of the Scottish Entanglement Alliance, and organization that helped lead the effort, said that the rate of entanglement and the range of species being impacted are increasing across Scottish waters.
“We organised this workshop in response to requests from the creel fishing community, who do not want to see the animals they work alongside getting snared in their gear,” MacLennan said.
“The fact that many of those in attendance traveled hundreds of miles and missed several fishing days to join in clearly demonstrates the will within the industry to address this issue, which cannot be solved without the expertise and advice of the fishermen themselves.”
At more than 20 tons, the whale was too large to be removed from the beach so local officials buried it there.