Researchers in Norway were in for a shock when they discovered more than 30 plastic bags and other plastic waste inside the stomach of a whale. The whale, which had been put down by wardens off the coast of western Norway, had clearly consumed a huge amount of non-biodegradable waste.
Despite the grisly findings, researchers say that the plastics found in the whale are ‘not surprising’, as the amount of waste in the seas continues to grow. The whale was in poor condition, and had become stranded in shallow waters off the island of Sotra, leading to wardens putting the animal down.
Researchers from the University of Bergen analysed the whale’s stomach, and found huge amounts of plastic waste.
Dr Terje Lislevand, a zoologist who studied the whale, said: ‘The whale’s stomach was full of plastic bags and packaging with labels in Danish and English.’ The whale was also emaciated, with very little blubber, suggesting that it was malnourished. Dr Lislevand said that the whale’s intestines were probably blocked by the build up of plastic, causing severe pain.
He added: ‘The findings are not surprising, but clearly it is sad to discovered such large quantities.’
The Cuvier’s beaked whale was put down by wardens at the weekend. Cuvier’s beaked whales are up to 22ft long and usually feed on squid and deep-sea fish. The mammals do not normally range in Norwegian waters.
Sadly, plastic is regularly found in the stomachs of beached whales around the world. Experts estimate there are five trillion pieces of plastic litter floating on the world’s oceans, discarded by a throw-away society and killing countless animals a year. It has been estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish.
An estimated 100 billion carrier bags are used every year in Europe – with 8 billion ending up as litter.
The Daily Mail has long been campaigning for tough action to reduce plastic bag waste.
Last year the Government introduced a 5p for plastic bags in supermarkets and other large stores.