A Cuvier’s whale recently beached itself off the coast of Norway. While this event is very sad, it is not unheard of; however, this whale drew scientist’s attention because he had beached himself several times before. Though the team of researchers made several attempts to guide the whale back into the sea, the creature continued to try and re-beach. Rather than let the whale perish slowly on a lonely beach, researchers put him down and took him back to the University of Bergen to try and figure out why this whale was so desperate to take his own life. What they found was horrifying.
Dr. Terje Lislevand, a zoologist at the University of Bergen and his team performed an autopsy on the whale and found 30 plastic bags and even more plastic debris lodged in the whale’s digestive tract. Dr. Lislevand explained to Sky News, “It wasn’t like [the plastic waste] was in just part of the stomach. It filled up the whole space.” He also noted that the whale was emaciated and had probably been unable to feed for a long time. Dr. Lislevand believes that this whale was suffering horribly – being perpetually full and constantly starving sounds like a hellish way do go – which accounts for his erratic behavior.
This picture from Planet Blue Society’s Facebook page shows what researchers found inside of this poor Cuvier’s whale.
Though they were in Norway, researchers noted that many of the plastic bags had English writing one them. Which means that they had traveled thousands of miles inside of the whale or in the currents of the ocean. And sadly, stories like this are becoming more and more common. We produce 100 billion (with a ‘B’!) plastic bags every year and most of those bags end up in the ocean. Once there, plastic bags are often mistaken for food by marine life. Researchers from the University of Bergen hypothesize that this unfortunate Cuvier’s whale thought these plastic bags were his favorite snack, squid – only to face horrible consequences.
Unfortunately, whales are not the only animals affected by our plastic. Scientists estimate that around 50 percent of sea turtles have plastic in their stomachs and 99 percent of seabird species have ingested plastic as well.
As a species, we put 8.8 million tons of plastic into the oceans every year. This plastic waste currently threatens over 800 different species of marine life and unless we change our consumption habits, this number will continue to rise. But you can help clean up our oceans and save marine animals by making small changes in your daily routine. All you have to do to prevent plastic bags from entering our oceans is to stop using them. Bring a reusable tote bag (check out some options, here) with you when you leave your house so that when you get asked, “paper our plastic?” you can whip out your tote and say, “neither, I’m saving whales today!” For more tips on how to cut disposable plastics out of your life, join One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign.
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
Image source: Blue Planet Society/Facebook