According to government officials in the region, the large amount of plastic bags, mangled rope, glass, and “sacks of Raffia,” which is a material made from palm trees, and even a drum, gave the whale peritonitis, an inflammation of the stomach lining which ultimately killed it.
The whale, which was a young male, can grow to weigh around 40,000 kg, but appeared severely under-nourished. Officials say it was only 6.5 tons in weight.
It’s a stark reminder of the damage plastics in the ocean can do.
“The presence of plastics in seas and oceans is one of the greatest threats to the conservation of wildlife throughout the world,” said Consuelo Rosauro, the general director of the natural environment ministry of the Murcia region.
The incident prompted an awareness campaign and a drive to reduce the amount of plastic in the ocean. Spaniards will band together to clean up 11 beaches.
Sperm Whales are recognized as endangered by the country, but officials say the plastic also affects dolphins, turtles and other whales in the region.
The World Economic Forum says that more than 311 tons of plastic was in the ocean in 2014 – and is expected to double in the next 20 years.
Advocacy organization Plastic Oceans reports that an estimated eight million tons of plastic is thrown into the bodies of water each year. Much of the trash is commonly-used items such as disposable water bottles and plastic bags.
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