A sperm whale has been found dead on a Spanish beach after it swallowed 29 kilos of plastic waste floating in the ocean.
The 10-metre long young male was found on a beach at Cabo de Palos in Murcia in February and experts found plastic bags, fragments of net, and a jerry can in its stomach, The Independent reports.
Marine biologists at the El Valle Wildlife Recovery Center analysed the whale’s remains and concluded the whale had died from plastics blocking its digestive system which it was unable to expel.
This led to the whale developing an infection of the abdomen known as peritonitis, which eventually killed the poor mammal.
The whale’s death has led to the regional ministry of culture, tourism and environment launching an awareness campaign on the dangers ocean litter present to marine life.
Consuelo Rosauro, director-general of the natural environment in the Murcian government said:
The presence of plastics in seas and oceans is one of the greatest threats to the conservation of wildlife throughout the world, since many animals are trapped in the trash or ingest large amounts of plastics that end up causing their death.
The region of Murcia is no stranger to this problem, which we must tackle through clean-up actions and, above all, citizen awareness.
According to Greenpeace an estimated 12.7 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans each year.
These bottles, beads and bags cause numerous problems with larger pieces choking animals, while smaller pieces clog the stomachs of creatures who mistake it for food.
It’s not just the large pieces choking that causes problems though, as the plastics degrade the seawater absorbs dangerous pollutants like PCBs, DDT and PAH from the debris.
These chemicals are highly toxic and cause mutations in sea life and allow toxic chemicals to enter the food chain affecting all animals including humans.
Despite the hard work of groups like Greenpeace, a recent report for the UK government found that plastic levels in the world’s oceans are set to treble.
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However, a report from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) suggested the number of plastic bags in UK waters had decreased as a direct result of measures to tackle plastic waste.
Cefas undertook regular surveys around British waters from 1992 to 2017 and between 2010 and 2017 they found the number plastic bags in the water had reduced from between 20 to 40 percent.
They believe this is because of the 5p bag charge UK supermarkets have adopted in recent years.
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