An emaciated Cuvier’s beaked whale was discovered in the Davao Gulf floundering and vomiting blood.
Another day, another dead whale. This time the giant marine mammal succumbed in waters by the Philippines, yet the cause of its demise was a common one: plastic pollution.
An emaciated Cuvier’s beaked whale was discovered in the Davao Gulf floundering and vomiting blood. It soon died and a subsequent examination by experts revealed the animal had swallowed more than 40kg of plastic trash, including 16 pieces of sacks and several grocery bags.
“Plastic was just bursting out of its stomach,” said Darrell Blatchley, a marine mammal expert and curator at the D’Bone Collector Museum in Davao City. “We pulled out the first bag, then the second. By the time we hit 16 rice sacks — on top of the plastic bags, and the snack bags, and big tangles of nylon ropes, you’re like — seriously?”
The young whale likely died of starvation and dehydration because the plastic waste in its stomach prevented it from digesting food by blocking its digestive system. “Its body was destroying itself from the inside: Its stomach acid, unable to break down the plastic waste, had worn holes through its stomach lining instead,” National Geographic explains.
This year three whales and dolphins have been found dead along the Davao Gulf after swallowing large quantities of plastic trash, which the mammals had probably mistaken for food.
“Every single river, every single canal goes directly to the ocean,” Blatchley said. “So everything from small whales and dolphins, even the sea turtles are affected by this, as well as humans. We are eating the food that comes out of that ocean. So we’re basically throwing our own garbage into our food source.”
Sadly, the death of the whale in Philippine waters should come as no surprise. The Philippines is one of the world’s worst per capita plastic polluters, which produces vast amounts of shopping bags and other single-use items. The country generates 2.7 million tons of plastic waste each year with a fifth of all that waste ending up in the island nation’s seas.