In yet another example of the huge damage ocean plastic is causing to marine animals, a dead whale with 40 kgs of plastics inside points to just how urgent the issue is.
Darrell Blatchley, a marine biologist and environmentalist based in the Philippines tried his best to save a young Cuvier’s beaked whale that was weak and vomiting blood. But the starving whale which died shortly after, brought back the focus of why plastics should be stopped from entering water bodies.
When the necropsy was performed, Blatchley was not prepared for the amount of plastic they found in the whale’s stomach.
“It was full of plastic — nothing but nonstop plastic,” he said to the local media. “It was compact to the point that its stomach was literally as hard as a baseball.” “That means that this animal has been suffering not for days or weeks but for months or even a year or more,” Blatchley added.
He noted that among the 40 kgs of plastic were 16 rice sacks — similar to potato sacks — and plastic bags from local Philippine grocery chains.
Blatchley and his team work with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and other organizations to assist in rescue and recovery of marine animals.
“Within the last 10 years, we have recovered 61 whales and dolphins just within the Davao Gulf,” he said. “Of them, 57 have died due to man — whether they ingested plastic or fishing nets or other waste, or gotten caught in pollution — and four were pregnant.”
In 2019 alone, Blatchley said, he and his team have found three whales or dolphins with plastic waste in their systems.
The Philippines has been deemed one of the “world’s leading plastic polluters. “According to the U.N. Environment Programme, some 9 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year. More than half of that waste comes from just five countries in East and Southeast Asia — China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. According to Ocean Conservancy study more than half a million metric tons of plastic waste from the Philippines makes it into the ocean each year. The attitude to plastic waste is specially incredible considering the marketing of these countries as natural getaways with clean beaches and more.
It also points to the slow progress being made in business boardrooms, when it comes to dumping or reducing plastics usage. Firms have been busy pledging a halt on their plastic use, by different deadlnes, but reduction is still a far cry. The fact is, products packed in single-use, non-recyclable plastic in places where there is no infrastructure to manage them need to reconsider their packaging options urgently Countrywide bans are effective only when solutions are there in to take its place. The problem can solve itself when the big corporates not only voice their support to curb plastic use but work to halt its use in packaging and install effective recycling plans in their supply chains too. With no strong deterrence in place yet, the cost of continuing with the status quo is simply too low for corporates.
Picture credit:D’ Bone Collector Museum Inc.