3 February 2023
A whale that washed ashore in Hawaii over the weekend likely died in part because it ate large volumes of fishing traps, fishing nets, plastic bags and other marine debris, scientists said, highlighting the threat to wildlife from the millions of tons of plastic that ends up in oceans every year.
The body of the 17-meter long, 4,431-kilogram animal was first noticed on a reef off Kauai on Friday. High tide brought it ashore on Saturday. The director of the University of Hawaii's Health and Stranding Lab, said there were enough foreign objects in the opening of the whale's intestinal tract to block food.
The whale's stomach contained six hagfish traps, seven types of fishing net, two types of plastic bags, a light protector, fishing line and a float from a net. Researchers also found squid beaks, fish skeleton and remains of other prey in the whale's stomach. It's the first known case of a sperm whale in Hawaii waters ingesting discarded fishing gear. Researchers found nothing wrong with other organs they examined.
They collected samples to screen for disease and conduct other follow-up tests. Scientists say that more than 35 million tons of plastic pollution is produced around Earth each year and about a quarter of that ends up around the water.
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