Plastic Kills: Sperm whale dies with over 200 lbs of waste in its stomach

Our human imprint on life on Earth is taking its toll as one sperm whale died with hundreds of pounds of plastic in its stomach (Photo: Facebook @Strandings)

Conservationists were left feeling immensely saddened after discovering a dead sperm whale on the coast of Luskentyre beach in Scotland.

The whale, a bull, was found by members of the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) on Sunday (Dec 1). Its belly literally exploded revealing what might have contributed to its untimely death — over 200 pounds of plastic debris filling the animal’s stomach.

“This case was a subadult male which live-stranded and died on [the] sandbanks on Thursday morning — by the time we got to it, it had been dead for 48 hours and pretty much most of the guts blew out of the side when we stuck a knife in it,” SMASS posted on its Facebook page.

Some of these images are distressing, viewer discretion is advised.

The Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Schem (SMASS) team opening the stomach showing some of the material balled up inside (Photo: Facebook @Strandings)

“In this whale’s stomach was approximately 100kg of marine debris — a whole range of plastic including sections of net, bundles of rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing. All this material was in a huge ball in the stomach and some of it looked like it had been there for some time,” the group added.

According to SMASS’ observations, the sperm whale wasn’t in any particularly poor condition, and whilst it is certainly plausible that this amount of plastic waste was a factor in its live- stranding, the group couldn’t find evidence that this had impacted or obstructed the intestines.

All this plastic rope and debris was in the stomach 😢 (Photo: Facebook @Strandings)

“This amount of plastic in the stomach is nonetheless horrific, must have compromised digestion, and serves to demonstrate, yet again, the hazards that marine litter and lost or discarded fishing gear can cause to marine life. It is also perhaps a good example that this is a global issue caused by a whole host of human activities,” SMASS argued.

SMASS further noted that while the sperm whale could have swallowed the plastic waste anywhere between Norway and the Azores, it will be investigating how the animal could have gotten so much in its stomach.