Pregnant Sperm Whale Washes Up With 50 Pounds Of Plastic In Her Stomach

Source: National Geographic/Alejandra Borunda

Photo: Tim Cole/NOAA/Wikimedia Commons


A pregnant sperm whale washed up, dead, on a sandy beach outside Porto Cervo, a resort town on Italy’s island of Sardinia last week. When scientists and veterinarians cut open her womb and stomach, they found a horrifying sight: A dead baby whale, and nearly 50 pounds of plastic waste jammed into her belly.

The plastic filled more than two thirds of her stomach. They could also see the remains of some of the squid she’d eaten—but the nutrients from that food likely never made it into her bloodstream, because her intestines were blocked by the morass of plastic waste.

“I never saw such big quantity of plastic,” said Luca Bittau, a marine biologist at SEAME Sardinia, a nonprofit organization that focuses on studying and protecting the cetaceans that live in the region. They found fishing nets; fishing lines; plastic bags, some so fresh the barcodes were still readable; plastic pipes, and even some plastic plates “like those that we have in our home,” he says. “It was like our usual life was there, but inside this stomach.” The realization, he said, was devastating.

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Photo: Tim Cole/NOAA/Wikimedia Commons

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