Along the coastline of the Philippines, one of the world’s worst plastic polluters, biologists recently discovered a dying whale that had swallowed over 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of plastic trash.
The 4.69-meter (15.4-foot) male Cuvier's beaked whale was discovered on the morning of Friday, March 16 along the shore of Mabini in Compostela Valley, near Davao City in the Phillippines.
Researchers from the D' Bone Collector Museum headed to the scene and found the whale in a desperate state. Along with being emaciated and severely dehydrated, the whale was vomiting blood. Eventually, the animal perished and the carcass was taken back to the museum’s facilities later that evening. An autopsy by the team quickly revealed the whale's grim fate.
“I was not prepared for the amount of plastic,” Darrell Blatchley, founder of the D' Bone Collector Museum, said in a statement given to IFLScience. “40 kilos roughly of rice sacks, grocery bags, banana plantation bags, and general plastic bags. Sixteen rice sacks total.”
Cuvier's beaked whale, also known as the goose-beaked whale, is one of the most widely distributed species of beaked whales. They can be seen in almost every part of the world's oceans, from the warm tropics to temperate seas, although they are most at home in deep, offshore waters.
Cetaceans do not drink from the ocean, they acquire fresh water from the food they eat. As a result of the ingested plastic, the whale fell severely ill with dehydration and began to starve, resulting in its death. Blatchley notes that the plastic trash had even started to calcify in the whale’s gut.
The Philippines is one of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to ocean plastic pollution. Statistics from 2010 show that the Philippines pumps 0.75 million tonnes (0.83 million tons) of plastic into the world’s oceans, the third highest quantity of any country. In fact, most of the top 10 biggest plastic polluters can be found in Southeast Asia.
After the whale’s necropsy is completed, the D' Bone Collector Museum hopes to put the skeleton on display as a powerful symbol of the pervasive problem of plastic pollution.
“In the last 10 years, we have recovered 61 whales and dolphins, of which 57 have died due to fishing nets, dynamite fishing, and plastic garbage,” Blatchley said. “Four were pregnant.
“This cannot continue," he added. "The Philippines needs to change from the children up or nothing will be left.“