In January, 13 sperm whales washed up dead on beaches in Germany, I am sure you might have heard about it. At the time it was making international headlines.
At the time, necropsies had not been done, and speculation about the cause of the deaths ranged from global warming to pesticides. Now it has been revealed that the cause of death was acute cardiovascular failure, the contents of their stomachs was alarming, to say the least. Among the squid beaks and fish parts was a whole lot of plastic and even car parts that had been dumped into the ocean. Just more damning evidence that plastic is not worth the convenience.
And so far, more than 30 sperm whales have been found beached since the start of the year in the U.K., Nederland’s, France, Denmark, and Germany.
The garbage included a nearly 43-foot-long shrimp fishing net, a plastic car engine cover, and the remains of a plastic bucket.
Some suggest that the animals thought the items were food, such as squid, which is their main staple. Others, however, believe that the travesty is a result of humanity’s shocking disregard for marine life, which has resulted in an overabundance of plastic in the oceans.
“These findings show us the results of our plastic-oriented society. Animals inadvertently consume plastic and plastic waste, which causes them to suffer, and at worst, causes them to starve with full stomachs.” Robert Habeck, environment minister for the state of Schleswig-Holstein.
Nicola Hodgkins of Whale and Dolphin Conservations said, “Although the large pieces will cause obvious problems and block the gut, we shouldn’t dismiss the smaller bits that could cause a more chronic problem for all species of cetacean – not just those who suction feed.”
This is not anything new, either. Seabound creature have been showing up with bellies full of trash for decades. I am sure by now that everyone has seen the heart-breaking images from Midway Island, where a photographer found young albatross chicks dead and full of plastic. They had been fed it by their parents who thought they were feeding their babies real food. They starved to death while their parents stuffed them full of more plastic.
Humans are a funny species indeed. While most countries no longer kill whales for their blubber or oil, we’re still killing them in different ways. It is easy to look at small parts of achievements and say that we are doing enough, when in reality we are not. We have created a life that is so incredibly self-serving that we’re actually killing other species just by living comfortably. It might be time to take a good hard look at how violently selfish our comforts have become.
Please think about this the next time that you dump your trash out a car window, or place all your garbage into the waste bin. Small changes make a big difference.