Friday, April 16, 2010

You'll be Surprised at What Was Found in a Whale's Stomach

Photo by The Seattle Times/Mike Siegel. Pam Martin with Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network examines a dead gray whale that washed ashore in the Arroyo Beach neighbourhood in West Seattle.

A nearly-mature whale, 37’ long, was found stranded on a shore in the Arroyo Beach neighbourhood of West Seattle. Researchers and scientists are examining the contents of the whale’s stomach in an effort to try to determine the cause of death. What they found in the whale’s gut surprised everyone.

Photo courtesy: Cascadia Research Collective

Fifty gallons of stomach contents were sifted through and examined. While most of it was real food – algae and other materials common to a gray whale’s diet – they also found more than 20 plastic bags, small towels, surgical gloves, sweat pants, plastic pieces, duct tape and a golf ball.

There can now be doubt that the ocean is nothing more than a liquid landfill. The only ray of light is that the trash made up only 2% of the total contents; however, that is still 2% too much. Researchers are maintaining that this plastic did not cause the whale’s death.

Cascadia Research says: "It did clearly indicate that the whale had been attempting to feed in industrial waters and therefore exposed to debris and contaminants present on the bottom in these areas."

Gray whales are bottom feeders getting their nutrition from the sediments in shallow waters. They filter out small organisms as food; but, apparently can’t always filter out our plastic pollution.

Researchers are currently studying the whale’s carcass to find the cause of death. There are several reasons that could be the culprit; starvation being the most likely. The theory that three whales that died in April during migration appeared emaciated from not being able to get enough food to eat in Alaska doesn’t work for me. I believe the plastic in the whales’ stomachs prevented the whales from being able to get enough nutrition. A stomach can only hold so much and the plastic can’t always leave the stomach taking up valuable room that should be digesting food.

I favour the theory that says chemicals, pollution and plastic in the water are responsible. The results should be available in a few weeks.

Whales are not the only victims of plastic. More and more seabirds are becoming victims also.

Chris Jordan documents animals ingesting plastic with fatal consequences. This is the decomposed body of a chick that has been mistakenly been fed pieces of plastic by its parents.

The following video shows a dead pelican chick having its stomach contents analyzed. Not for the super sensitive.

Via TreeHugger

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