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A Growing Plastics Problem Is Killing Whales

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A Cuvier's beaked whale was discovered dead ashore. The whale was malnourished, and had 30 plastic bags in its stomach.

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"The whale's stomach was full of plastic bags and packaging with labels in Danish and English," Dr. Terje Lislevand, a zoologist, told the Daily Mail. "The findings are not surprising, but clearly it is sad to [have] discovered such large quantities."

Some estimates say that by 2050, there will be more plastic bags in the world's oceans than fish.

According to National Geographic, a spate of sperm whales were found beached along Germany's North Sea coast in 2016.

Fishing gear, plastics, and even an engine cover was found in their stomachs. However, “the marine litter did not directly cause the stranding,” said Ursula Siebert, who heads the Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover.

“It is thought that the sperm whales may have got lost and entered the North Sea (possibly chasing squid), where the seafloor is not deep enough, causing the whales to become disorientated and die,” Danny Groves, a spokesman for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, stated.  

But Hal Whitehead, a whale researcher with Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, cautioned that “the plastic debris in their stomachs is a horrible indictment of humans.”

“These findings show us the results of our plastic orientated society,” Robert Habeck, Environment Minister for the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, told the Daily Mail, reports The Telegraph. “Animals inadvertently consume plastic and plastic waste which causes them to suffer and at worst, causes them to starve with full stomachs.”

Sources: Daily Mail, National Geographic, Daily Mail via The Telegraph / Photo credit: University of Bergen via Daily Mail

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