A sperm whale was found dead last week on the Isle of Harris in Scotland with an estimated 220 pounds of garbage in its stomach, including a “huge ball” of discarded fishing gear and plastic items.
According to the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS), which carried out a necropsy of the whale over the weekend, the animal stranded itself and died on the sandbanks on Thursday morning.
The contents of the whale’s stomach included sections of net, bundles of rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps, and tubing, the organization shared in a post on its Facebook page, further noting that the material appeared to have been there for some time.
Photo from: Luskentyre Beach – Isle of Harris, Facebook page
“This whale had debris in its stomach which seemed to have originated from both the land and fishing sectors, and could have been swallowed at any point between Norway and the Azores,” explained the organization, further stating that it is investigating why this animal ended up with so much trash in its stomach.
SMASS stated that the “amount of plastic in the whale’s stomach is ‘horrific’ and a ‘global issue’ caused by a whole host of human activities.” The tragic finding “serves to demonstrate, yet again, the hazards that marine litter and lost or discarded fishing gear can cause to marine life.”
Similar sentiments were expressed on the Luskentyre Beach – Isle of Harris Facebook page, where people are encouraged to pick up “a few items of rubbish each time they visit” and share photos of what they removed from the beach.
“Debris in our oceans is everyone’s problem – the fishing industry needs to do better, but equally, we all need to do more,” noted one of the contributors. “Watching this today makes me despair for the environment, it’s totally falling apart around us.”
Surrounded by fragile dune ecosystems, there was no option to move the massive animal. SMASS, along with members of the coastguard and the Western Isles council disposal team, conducted the necropsy and then buried the deceased whale where it had perished.
PLEASE be responsible and compassionate, don’t litter and always pick up trash that you find on the beach.
You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate. #GoVeg