Whale Choking on Plastic Seeks Help From Fishermen

Did you know that whales can have tongues as heavy as an elephant and a heart the size of a car, but their throats are incredibly tiny? For instance, blue whales—the largest animals on Earth—have throats about the size of a beach ball so they can dine on krill and zooplankton.

So it's no wonder that this big, beautiful creature, found by a group of fishermen in Middle Harbour, Sydney, was struggling with a plastic bag and fishing line caught in its mouth. One of the men, Ivan Iskenderian, was able to lean over his boat and remove the waste from the whale, the Daily Telegraph reported.

“It was right on his lip ... he seemed like he wanted it off,” Iskenderian told the publication. He added that the whale ­appeared to show its appreciation by slapping its fin on the water.

Ron Kovacs captured video of the encounter and also attempted to relieve the whale. “He had a big scar on his back, and some fishing line and two plastic bags on his head,” he said, according to the Independent.

“He [kept] popping his head up so you could reach out and remove the garbage. He tried on my boat bit [it was] a bit harder as we are a bit higher—I made one grab for the bag but missed," he said. “He later came up to a trailer boat and presented his head as they removed the bag and [then] the fishing line. It was as if he wanted them to take it off.”

This particular whale appears to be the endangered Southern right whale, according to marine biologist Tegan A. L. Mortimer. She told EcoWatch that these whales are found all around the temperate and sub-tropical Southern Hemisphere and related to more endangered species, the North Pacific right whale and the North Atlantic right whale.

Mortimer, who is researching the impact of plastic pollution on mysticete whales including humpback within Massachusetts Bay, said that this story reminds us all that these creatures live in our backyards and are impacted by human activities.

"Globally, the leading threats to whales, dolphins and porpoises are entanglement in fishing gear and strikes from vessels," she said. "The impacts of plastic pollution on these animals isn't well understood but we do know, from examples like this, that these animals are interacting with our plastic trash. Plastic in the ocean is something that everyone can have a positive impact on."

A recent study found that 8 million metric tons of plastic waste is dumped into the world's oceans every year, or as Mortimer puts it: "That's five shopping bags filled with plastic trash for every foot of coastline in the world!"

It's abundantly clear that we all must act on plastic waste. "Just by reducing your personal plastic footprint through using reusable products makes a big impact in the flow of plastic into the ocean," Mortimer said.

Mortimer also advised that if you ever find yourself in a situation like this, in many cases, assisting distressed marine animals can be very dangerous. Most areas have trained responders that people should call if they come across a marine animal in trouble, she said.


Massive Mine Waste Spill Reaches New Mexico

Starbucks, Destroyer of the Seas

David Suzuki: Cecil the Lion’s Killing Shines Spotlight on Barbaric Trophy Hunting

Show Comments ()

Those Little Produce Stickers? They’re a Big Waste Problem

By Dan Nosowitz

Those little produce stickers are ubiquitous fruits and vegetables everywhere. But, as CBC notes, they're actually a significant problem despite their small size.

Keep reading... Show less

Despite Trump’s Bluster, U.S. Officials and Scientists Maintain Climate Work with International Partners

Trump has loudly declared his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, but, behind the tweets and the headlines, U.S. officials and scientists have carried on working with international partners to fight climate change, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Keep reading... Show less
Gina Loudon and administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Gage Skidmore

EPA Sued Over Failure to Release Correspondence With Heartland Institute

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being sued for its "unlawful and unreasonable delay" in responding to requests for information about the agency's communications with the Heartland Institute, according to a complaint by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

The Heartland Institute is an Illinois-based think tank that rejects the science of man-made climate change and has received funding from the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry.

Keep reading... Show less
Trump Watch
Aerial photo of Duke Energy Coal Ash Spill. Wake Forest University Center for Energy, Environment & Sustainability

Trump Administration Seeks to Gut Water Pollution Safeguards, Putting Communities at Risk

By Mary Anne Hitt

A Hollywood scriptwriter couldn't make this up. One day after new data revealed widespread toxic water contamination near coal ash disposal sites, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt announced a proposal to repeal the very 2015 EPA safeguards that had required this data to be tracked and released in the first place. Clean water is a basic human right that should never be treated as collateral damage on a corporate balance sheet, but that is exactly what is happening.

Keep reading... Show less
Impossible Foods

Impossible Burger Executive Grilled at Sustainable Foods Summit

An executive from a company selling a genetically engineered meat alternative faced tough questions at the Sustainable Foods Summit held in San Francisco at the end of January.

Keep reading... Show less
Elephant family in Kenya. Nzomo Victor / Flickr

Why Trump’s New Trophy Hunting Council Is a Disaster

By Elly Pepper

In early November—the same week the Trump administration announced its disastrous decision to allow elephant and lion trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia—the administration decided to create an advisory committee, the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), to advise Trump on how to enhance trophy hunters' ability to hunt internationally.

Yup, that means the administration now has a council dedicated exclusively to promoting the killing of more imperiled species, like elephants and lions, for sport. The council's mandate includes counseling Trump on the economic, conservation, and anti-poaching benefits of trophy hunting, of which there are very few. Sadly, Trump doesn't want advice on the many drawbacks of trophy hunting.

Keep reading... Show less
A robot bee from a season three episode of Black Mirror on Netflix

Walmart Files Patent for Robot Bees

With the mass die-off of bees spelling trouble for agriculture, the world's largest retailer has filed patents for the use of "unmanned vehicles," or drones, to aid with pollination and crop production.

In U.S. Patent Office documents made public last week, Walmart has applied for six patents on drones designed to identify pest damage, spray pesticides and pollinate plants.

Keep reading... Show less
The iconic moai of Easter Island are threatened by erosion caused by rising seas. Aupaelfary / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Climate Change Threatens Easter Island

Easter Island has long served as a reminder of what happens to a civilization when the environment it depends upon collapses. Now, the iconic remains of that civilization are under threat from a new environmental challenge: global climate change.

Easter Island, Rapa Nui in Polynesian, is surrounded by statues called moai situated on top of ahu, or platforms. But according to an in-depth report for The New York Times published Thursday, the moai are now at risk from erosion caused by sea level rise.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!