ISLE OF HARRIS, SCOTLAND – A sperm whale found stranded and that died on the beaches of a Scottish Island was discovered by researchers to have a 220-pound ball of garbage inside its stomach. The whale exploded when the sea creature was cut open for a necropsy.
On November 28, the juvenile male whale was discovered on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, according to a Facebook post by the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, or SMASS. The researchers wrote they weren’t able to reach the whale until 48 hours later.
SMASS also posted an alarming video that showed the whale “exploding” its guts out of its side after researchers had cut into the whale to perform a necropsy.
The group said that because of their size, whales are well insulated, which allows their bodies to stay warm even in near-freezing waters, and that they can decompose quickly, which can sometimes lead a whale’s carcass to “explode.”
However, it was the 220-pound giant ball of trash that was shocking to the researchers.
There was a giant ball of various marine debris wrapped together inside the whale’s stomach, which included fishing netting, plastic cups, bundles of rope, packing straps, gloves, and tubing, in total it weighed about 220 pounds, according to the group. SMASS posted graphic photos of its findings on its Facebook page.
SMASS said the whale didn’t seem to be in poor condition. It’s possible the big trash ball was a factor in the whale being stranded, but SMASS said there was no evidence the trash ball obstructed the whale’s intestines.
“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,” SMASS said.
SMASS stated the garbage was from “both the land and fishing sectors” and it could’ve been consumed by the whale anywhere between the areas of Norway and the Azores, which is located in the mid-Atlantic Ocean and is west of Portugal.
Officials buried the whale at the beach because they were unable to move the 20-ton mammal to another location, SMASS said. SMASS said they will continue their investigation into why the whale has so much debris built up in its stomach.
“The issue of pollution, plastics, and ocean debris is a worldwide issue that needs action. We all need to use less plastic but also get involved in cleaning up what is already out there. Too many people turn a blind eye to it thinking it’s someone else’s problem,” Dan Parry of SMASS told USA Today in a Facebook message.
90% or more of plastic does not get recycled, and millions of metric tons pour into Earth’s oceans each year. However, big corporations take a majority of the blame for the problem and not ordinary people.