Quantcast

40-Ton Sperm Whales Killed by Plastic Bags in Mediterranean

Animals
Sperm whale. Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

More than a third of the sperm whales found dead in the eastern Mediterranean since 2001 were killed by plastic debris, researchers from the Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute in Athens found.

Necropsies on nine of the 24 dead whales found in Greek waters revealed that their stomachs were filled with large amounts of plastic, The Times reported on the Pelagos analysis.


Marine biologists studying the carcasses said the animals likely suffered slow and "excruciating" deaths from the blockage.

One juvenile male found off the coast Mykonos swallowed more than a hundred items of plastic, including single-use plastic bags. One of the bags came from a shop in Thessaloniki, a city 500 miles away.

"The young whale suffered an excruciating death," Pelgaos director Alexandros Frantzis told The Times. "We alone are accountable."

"It's alarming but not surprising," Frantzis added. "The trend is bound to get worse because the amount of plastic waste in the Aegean Sea is growing."

Sperm whales are considered endangered in the Mediterranean. Cetaceans in these waters face threats from high levels of ship traffic, pollution, human density, tourism and fishing, Lifegate noted.

Plastic waste has also become a problem in this marine region. A sperm whale found dead in southern Spain in February was killed after ingesting 64 pounds of mostly plastic garbage. Experts determined the whale was unable to expel or digest the trash, causing it to die from peritonitis, or an infection of the abdomen.

Plastic pollution is a worldwide crisis and, unfortunately, marine life bears the brunt of its harmful impacts. In Australia, a recent video shows four single-use plastic bags being pulled from the stomach of a tiger shark found in South Coast waters, the Northern Daily Leader reported. The shark, which appeared emaciated, likely confused the bags for squid.

The footage has sparked calls for a ban on plastic bags in Australia.

"We have to rethink how we use plastic," marine biologist Murray MacDonald told the Northern Daily Leader after viewing the video. "The evidence is starting to mount rapidly that we just cannot throw away plastic as we have been."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Salmon fry before being released just outside San Francisco Bay. Jim Wilson / The New York Times / Redux

By Alisa Opar

For Chinook salmon, the urge to return home and spawn isn't just strong — it's imperative. And for the first time in more than 65 years, at least 23 fish that migrated as juveniles from California's San Joaquin River and into the Pacific Ocean have heeded that call and returned as adults during the annual spring run.

Read More Show Less
AnnaPustynnikova / iStock / Getty Images

By Kerri-Ann Jennings, MS, RD

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Protesters hold a banner and a placard while blocking off the road during a protest against Air pollution in London. Ryan Ashcroft / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Dozens of students, parents, teachers and professionals joined a Friday protest organized by Extinction Rebellion that temporarily stalled morning rush-hour traffic in London's southeasten borough of Lewisham to push politicians to more boldly address dangerous air pollution across the city.

Read More Show Less

Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Moment / Getty Images

By Bridget Shirvell

On a farm in upstate New York, a cheese brand is turning millions of pounds of food scraps into electricity needed to power its on-site businesses. Founded by eight families, each with their own dairy farms, Craigs Creamery doesn't just produce various types of cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss and Muenster cheeses, sold in chunks, slices, shreds and snack bars; they're also committed to becoming a zero-waste operation.

Read More Show Less
Coal ash has contaminated the Vermilion River in Illinois. Eco-Justice Collaborative / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Jessica A. Knoblauch

Summers in the Midwest are great for outdoor activities like growing your garden or cooling off in one of the area's many lakes and streams. But some waters aren't as clean as they should be.

That's in part because coal companies have long buried toxic waste known as coal ash near many of the Midwest's iconic waterways, including Lake Michigan. Though coal ash dumps can leak harmful chemicals like arsenic and cadmium into nearby waters, regulators have done little to address these toxic sites. As a result, the Midwest is now littered with coal ash dumps, with Illinois containing the most leaking sites in the country.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

picture-alliance / AP Photo / NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center

The Group of 20 major economies agreed a deal to reduce marine pollution at a meeting of their environment ministers on Sunday in Karuizawa, Japan.

Read More Show Less
Pope Francis holds his General Weekly Audience in St. Peter's Square on Aug. 29, 2018 in Vatican City, Vatican. Giulio Origlia / Getty Images

Pope Francis declared a climate emergency Friday as he met with oil industry executives and some of their biggest investors to urge them to act on the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
A vegetarian bowl with quinoa fritters. Westend61 / Getty Images

By Ketura Persellin

You've likely heard that eating meat and poultry isn't good for your health or the planet. Recent news from Washington may make meat even less palatable: Pork inspections may be taken over by the industry itself, if a Trump administration proposal goes into effect, putting tests for deadly pathogens into the hands of the industry.

Read More Show Less