After the death of a sperm whale in Sardinia last week, plastic waste has now been found in its stomach - the second such incident to happen in the past two weeks

Sperm Whale

(SEAME Sardinia)

A dead sperm whale was found to have 22kg of plastic waste in its stomach.

The 20ft animal was found last week on the shore of tourist destination Porto Cervo, in Sardinia, an island in the south of Italy.

After its stomach was cut open, items including bin bags, fishing nets, plastic plates and a bag of washing detergent were discovered, ocean protection non-profit SEAME Sardinia announced yesterday (1 April).

Italian Minister of the Environment Sergio Costa said on his Facebook page that eliminating plastic waste in the ocean is a priority.

He said: “Marine litter affects all marine life in the world, not only Italy, of course, but every country in the world has the duty to apply policies to fight it.

Whale death
(Wikipedia)

“We have used plastic in a care-free way and today we are paying the consequences.

“I invite all mayors to sign ordinances on the ban on disposable plastic in their cities.”

 

Not the first whale death linked to plastic pollution

It’s the second time in two weeks that a whale has been found dead with plastic waste in its stomach.

A young whale was found washed up on a shore of the Philippines with 40kg of waste in its body.

According to the United Nations, there are as much as 51 trillion microplastic particles in the ocean, and estimates suggest that, by 2050, 99% of the planet’s seabirds will have ingested plastic.

The material can find its way into the human food chain, too, potentially causing health problems.

More than one million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean, according to the Sea Turtle Conservancy group.

Commenting on the incident in Italy, the World Wildlife Fund said: “This is yet another painful reminder of the devastating impact that plastic pollution is having on our oceans and the terrible damage it is causing to marine life.

“Current efforts to tackle the problem are simply not working and, just a few weeks ago, world governments again failed to take decisive action on marine plastic pollution at the UN Assembly in Nairobi.

Whale death
Items found inside the whale included bin bags, fishing nets, plastic plates and a bag of washing detergent were discovered(SEAME Sardinia)

“This is a global crisis that can only be solved if countries and businesses come together and accelerate progress towards a global and legally-binding agreement on marine plastic pollution.

“We expect the EU and other progressive governments to take the lead on this.”

 

EU policy on plastic pollution

The sperm whale – who was pregnant – was found just days after the European Union had approved legislation in its parliament to ban single-use plastic cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers by 2021, and a 90% plastic bottle collection target by 2029.

It was part of its Plastic Strategy scheme, which was launched last year with the aim of making all plastic packaging in the EU marketplace recyclable by 2030.

Last week, the Italian capital of Rome suffered a fire at one of its processing plants, with the Roman Mayor Virginia Raggi saying her administration would rush through bans on single-use plastic bags.

Whale death
(Wikimedia)

Greenpeace Italy’s toxics campaigner Giuseppe Ungherese said: “We welcome Raggi announcement and we hope it will be followed by actions very soon to respond properly to the global plastic crisis.

“Mayor Raggi needs to address her efforts in the right direction.

“Contrarily to other Italian cities, the ban must not be a simple shift from plastic to other materials like biodegradable and compostable plastics or paper with significant environment impacts.

“The priority is to reduce the amount of waste produced at the source.”