Staff at the D'Bone Collector Museum in the Philippines made the gruesome discovery of the dead whale at a beach in Compostela Valley.
The animal, a young male Cuvier’s beaked whale, was initially reported to be vomiting blood. A few hours later it died and the museum team recovered it and performed a necropsy. They found a mass of plastic bags as well as 16 rice sacks and four banana plantation bags in its stomach.
Darrell Blatchley, a marine biologist and the owner of the museum, said that his team had recovered 57 dead whales and dolphins over the past decade that have died due to ingesting garbage in the ocean.
— Complex (@Complex) March 19, 2019
The whale was just the latest casualty from plastic pollution
The whale’s stomach “had the most plastic we have ever seen in a whale. It’s disgusting” the museum’s Facebook post revealed. “Action must be taken by the government against those who continue to treat the waterways and ocean as dumpsters.”
The morbid find comes just months after a dead sperm whale was found in Indonesia with 100 plastic cups, multiple bottles, 25 plastic bags and even some flip-flops inside its stomach. In June 2018, a pilot whale was found dead in Thailand after consuming 80 plastic bags.
Blatchley said the whale’s stomach was “literally as hard as a baseball” after consuming the mass of plastic.
“That means that this animal has been suffering not for days or weeks but for months or even a year or more,” he added.
Dead sperm whale found in Indonesia had ingested '6kg of plastic' https://t.co/bJt8kcJ7pL
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) November 20, 2018
How much plastic pollution is in the ocean?
UK charity Surfers Against Sewage has estimated that there are currently 51 trillion microscopic pieces of plastic garbage in the ocean. Another charity working in the field, Ocean Conservancy, has stated that 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean every year.
The buildup of plastic debris is a significant problem for marine life; Ocean Conservancy found that plastic has been found in more than 60% of all seabirds. Ocean pollution has also been linked to declining levels of marine oxygen.
Lindsay Mosher, Program Manager for the Oceanic Society’s Blue Habits project, said that such discoveries were “shocking” and “obviously tragic.” She said people could help prevent plastic pollution by taking resuable bags to the supermarket and using glass containers to transport and store food.
Last year, the United Nations reported 11 million plastic bags and bottles are in use every minute and only 10% of them are being recycled.
This may be changing quickly, though, as a 2018 report from the United Nations Environment Program and the World Resources Institute found that more than 100 nations were taking steps to ban single-use plastic bags.
EU countries and the European Parliament on Wednesday agreed details of a ban on single-use plastics, including plates, cutlery and drinking straws, in a bid to cut marine pollution https://t.co/tksBA5XKCN pic.twitter.com/lLQOgqrTUC
— AFP news agency (@AFP) December 19, 2018
The European Union Parliament also voted in late 2018 to phase out plastic straws and other disposable plastic items from 2021. Progress may be slower elsewhere; around 60% of all the plastic in the ocean currently comes from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
The D’Bone Collector Museum describes itself as being “opened in 2012 with the hope of educating people to take care of the environment”. It has put some of the marine animals that have died from ingesting plastics on display.