Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Spanish Sperm whale killed by plastic debris


10 metre long male Sperm whale had more than 8 kilograms of plastic in gut
- Our thanks to Renaud de Stephanis of the Spanish Cetacean Society
March 2013. Marine debris has been found in marine animals since the early 20th century, but little is known about the impacts of the ingestion of debris in large marine mammals. In 2012, a dead Sperm whale was found on a beach in southern Spain. The whale weighed around 4500 kg, and seemed to be in a state of advanced emaciation. There was no evidence of entanglement scars or other injuries. 

Large mass of compacted plastics
During inspection of the abdominal cavity, squid beaks were found on the exterior portion of the small intestine, and inside the stomach compartments. A large mass of compacted plastics could be seen protruding through a rupture in the first stomach compartment. No fresh remains of squids were recovered. The intestines were empty. Cause of death was presumed to be gastric rupture following impaction with debris, which added to a previous problem of starvation. All of the plastic pieces and other debris were recovered. The matching of the sperm whale's fluke revealed that the animal had not been photographically matched before in the Mediterranean Sea.

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