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Sperm whale dies with 220lb ‘litter ball’ in stomach

Sperm whale dies with 220lb 'litter ball' in stomach

Fishing nets, plastic cups and plastic bags were found in the 220lb ball of rubbish (Picture: SMASS)

A sperm whale that died after being washed up on a Scottish beach had a 220lb ball of litter inside it.

Fishing nets, plastic cups, packing straps and plastic bags were among the items found in a compacted mass inside the creature’s stomach.

The whale was discovered by locals on Seilebost Beach on the Isle of Harris in the outer Hebrides on Thursday.

It was alive when it was found beached, however died a short time after, according to experts from the Scottish Marine Animals Stranding Scheme.

It is not clear at the present time whether the debris had contributed to the mammal’s death.

The animal is believed to have become disoriented in storms before it became stranded on the Scottish beach.

However, a SMASS spokesperson said the rubbish ball was still ‘horrific’ and highlighted what ‘human activities’ could do.

Just on our way back from a stunning (it was on Luskentyre beach), fascinating, briefly alarming (it sort of exploded) and shameful (there was a load of marine debris in its stomach) sperm whale necropsy on Harris this weekend. This case was a subadult male which live stranded and died on sandbanks on Thursday morning- by the time we got to it had been dead for 48 hours and pretty much most of the guts blew out of the side when we stuck a knife in it. Animals this size are so well insulated that even though the temperature outside barely got above freezing, they don?t cool down and hence decompose incredibly quickly. In this whale?s stomach was approximately 100kg of marine debris- a whole range of plastic including sections of net, bundles of rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing. All this material was in a huge ball in the stomach and some of it it looked like it had been there for some time. The animal wasn?t in particularly poor condition, and whilst it is certainly plausible that this amount of debris was a factor in its live stranding, we actually couldn?t find evidence that this had impacted or obstructed the 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. It is also perhaps a good example that this is a global issue caused by a whole host of human activities. This whale had debris in its stomach which seemed to have originated from both the land and fishing sectors, and could have been swallowed at any point between Norway and the Azores. We are looking in more detail to see if we can work out quite why this animal ended up with so much of it in its stomach. As a place to do a necropsy, you can?t get much better than a crisp sunny day on Luskentyre ? it?s quite simply an utterly beautiful part of the world. It is worth therefore giving particular thanks to members of the coastguard and the Western Isles council disposal team who helped us necropsy and then bury the whale, and therefore return the beach to its pristine glory. Surrounded by fragile dune ecosystems, there was no option to move a 20 tonne animal elsewhere, towing out to sea wasn?t an option so it needed to be buried on site. This was completed as light fell yesterday, so hopefully, if you go to the beach today, there should be almost no evidence that there was a large sperm whale necropsy undertaken there this weekend. https://www.facebook.com/Strandings/photos/pcb.2547086122048826/2547080812049357/?type=3&theater

The whale was discovered by locals on Seilebost Beach on the Isle of Harris (Picture: SMASS)

Just on our way back from a stunning (it was on Luskentyre beach), fascinating, briefly alarming (it sort of exploded) and shameful (there was a load of marine debris in its stomach) sperm whale necropsy on Harris this weekend. This case was a subadult male which live stranded and died on sandbanks on Thursday morning- by the time we got to it had been dead for 48 hours and pretty much most of the guts blew out of the side when we stuck a knife in it. Animals this size are so well insulated that even though the temperature outside barely got above freezing, they don?t cool down and hence decompose incredibly quickly. In this whale?s stomach was approximately 100kg of marine debris- a whole range of plastic including sections of net, bundles of rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing. All this material was in a huge ball in the stomach and some of it it looked like it had been there for some time. The animal wasn?t in particularly poor condition, and whilst it is certainly plausible that this amount of debris was a factor in its live stranding, we actually couldn?t find evidence that this had impacted or obstructed the 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. It is also perhaps a good example that this is a global issue caused by a whole host of human activities. This whale had debris in its stomach which seemed to have originated from both the land and fishing sectors, and could have been swallowed at any point between Norway and the Azores. We are looking in more detail to see if we can work out quite why this animal ended up with so much of it in its stomach. As a place to do a necropsy, you can?t get much better than a crisp sunny day on Luskentyre ? it?s quite simply an utterly beautiful part of the world. It is worth therefore giving particular thanks to members of the coastguard and the Western Isles council disposal team who helped us necropsy and then bury the whale, and therefore return the beach to its pristine glory. Surrounded by fragile dune ecosystems, there was no option to move a 20 tonne animal elsewhere, towing out to sea wasn?t an option so it needed to be buried on site. This was completed as light fell yesterday, so hopefully, if you go to the beach today, there should be almost no evidence that there was a large sperm whale necropsy undertaken there this weekend. https://www.facebook.com/Strandings/photos/pcb.2547086122048826/2547080812049357/?type=3&theater

The sperm whale was alive when it was found beached by locals, but died a short time later (Picture: SMASS)

In a Facebook post, they said: ‘All this material was in a huge ball in the stomach and some of it it looked like it had been there for some time.

The spokesperson added: ‘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.

‘It is also perhaps a good example that this is a global issue caused by a whole host of human activities.’

Experts say the debris could have been swallowed at any point between Norway and the Azures and includes waste from both the land and sea.

Most of the rubbish likely came from the fishing industry, according to those investigating the remains.

Local Dan Parry, who lives in nearby Luskentyre, told the BBC: ‘It was desperately sad, especially when you saw the fishing nets and debris that came out of its stomach.

Luskentyre Beach - Isle of Harris 16 hrs ? It was a sad sad ending for this juvenile whale that was washed up and died on Seilebost beach. 14 meters in length, and estimated to be about 26 tons in weight. Whilst the photos are gruesome, they show us the reason for it's untimely demise. Starved to death due to having a stomach full of discarded / accidentally lost fishing nets and debris. The intestines had virtually nothing in them as it could no longer process food. Every day when we walk Molly along the beach, we pick up debris, but sadly we rarely see anyone else picking anything up. Debris in our oceans is everyone's problem - the fishing industry need to do better, but equally, we all need to do more. Watching this today, makes me despair for the environment, totally falling apart around us

A SMASS spokesperson said the rubbish ball was ‘horrific’ (Picture: SMASS)

Just on our way back from a stunning (it was on Luskentyre beach), fascinating, briefly alarming (it sort of exploded) and shameful (there was a load of marine debris in its stomach) sperm whale necropsy on Harris this weekend. This case was a subadult male which live stranded and died on sandbanks on Thursday morning- by the time we got to it had been dead for 48 hours and pretty much most of the guts blew out of the side when we stuck a knife in it. Animals this size are so well insulated that even though the temperature outside barely got above freezing, they don?t cool down and hence decompose incredibly quickly. In this whale?s stomach was approximately 100kg of marine debris- a whole range of plastic including sections of net, bundles of rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing. All this material was in a huge ball in the stomach and some of it it looked like it had been there for some time. The animal wasn?t in particularly poor condition, and whilst it is certainly plausible that this amount of debris was a factor in its live stranding, we actually couldn?t find evidence that this had impacted or obstructed the 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. It is also perhaps a good example that this is a global issue caused by a whole host of human activities. This whale had debris in its stomach which seemed to have originated from both the land and fishing sectors, and could have been swallowed at any point between Norway and the Azores. We are looking in more detail to see if we can work out quite why this animal ended up with so much of it in its stomach. As a place to do a necropsy, you can?t get much better than a crisp sunny day on Luskentyre ? it?s quite simply an utterly beautiful part of the world. It is worth therefore giving particular thanks to members of the coastguard and the Western Isles council disposal team who helped us necropsy and then bury the whale, and therefore return the beach to its pristine glory. Surrounded by fragile dune ecosystems, there was no option to move a 20 tonne animal elsewhere, towing out to sea wasn?t an option so it needed to be buried on site. This was completed as light fell yesterday, so hopefully, if you go to the beach today, there should be almost no evidence that there was a large sperm whale necropsy undertaken there this weekend. https://www.facebook.com/Strandings/photos/pcb.2547086122048826/2547080812049357/?type=3&theater

A local said the situation was ‘desperately sad’ (Picture: SMASS)

‘We walk on these beaches nearly every day and I always take a bag to pick up litter, most of which is fishing-related.

‘This stuff could have easily been netting or the like lost in a storm, we just don’t know, but it does show the scale of the problem we have with marine pollution.’

According to Smass figures, reports of whale and dolphin strandings in Scotland are increasing.

There were 204 reports in 2009, rising to more than 930 in 2018.



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