The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
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!"
This is why I hate the overuse of carrier bags! Fishermen removes plasticbag from whale who approached them for help http://t.co/tSd3jyESad
— Sarah Robertson (@sarahcaseupton) August 13, 2015
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.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.