Huge amount of plastic found inside dead pregnant whale

TAIPEI (CNA) – An autopsy on a whale that was found dead on a beach in Hualien last Friday revealed a large amount of plastic in its stomach and it was also found to be pregnant, two ocean conservation organizations said Wednesday.

The Cuvier’s beaked whale had in its stomach six plastic bags, four canvas bags, one sheet of hard plastic, two fishing lines, and numerous wads and fragments of plastic, according to the Ocean Conversation Administration (OCA) and Taiwan Cetacean Society, which conducted the autopsy.

However, it was still uncertain whether the ingestion of plastic was the direct cause of the whale’s death, said Ko Yung-chuan (柯勇全) of the OCA.

He said the remains of a squid were found in the whale’s stomach, which indicated that the whale was still able to feed, therefore, until further tests could be done, the cause of death could not be determined.

Regrettably, the 5.65 meter-long whale was also carrying a 165cm-long fetus, Ko said.

In a similar case in the Philippines, a dead whale was found last Saturday with some 40 kilograms of plastic and other trash in its stomach, he said.

According to a New York Times report Monday, the 499 kg whale was found on a beach in the town of Mabini with “plastic bags and a variety of other disposable plastic products inside its stomach.” The OCA said the two recent cases of dead whales highlighted the danger that man-made marine waste poses to marine wildlife.

Fishermen are urged to help with marine conservation by disposing of their garbage properly and picking up any trash spotted at sea, the OCA said, adding that it has also asked the management at various ports to supervise boat crews in that regard.

The general public, meanwhile, can help by reducing the use of plastic, the OCA said.

By Lu Tai-chen and William Yen