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Scientists 'alarmed' to find 220 pounds of plastic in dead whale's stomach

By
Sommer Brokaw
Rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing were all found in the animal's stomach, a group that conducted the necropsy said. File Photo by Shane Gross/Shutterstock/UPI
Rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing were all found in the animal's stomach, a group that conducted the necropsy said. File Photo by Shane Gross/Shutterstock/UPI

Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Scientists are expressing greater concern about ocean pollution after more than 200 pounds of plastic were found inside the stomach of a sperm whale that was found dead on a Scotland beach last week.

A necropsy on the pelagic mammal found 220 pounds of human junk -- including rope, sections of fishing nets and other plastic debris.

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The 22-ton young whale was found on the banks of Harris, a Hebridean island off the northwest Scotland coast. The Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme, which investigates the deaths of whales and dolphins, performed the necropsy.

"By the time we got to it had been dead for 48 hours and pretty much most of the guts blew out of the side when we stuck a knife in it," the group wrote in a Facebook post Sunday. "Animals this size are so well insulated that even though the temperature outside barely got above freezing, they don't cool down and hence decompose incredibly quickly."

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The SMASS called the necropsy "stunning," "fascinating," "alarming" and "shameful."

"In this whale's stomach was approximately [220 pounds] of marine debris -- a whole range of plastic including sections of net, bundles of rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing," it added. "All this material was in a huge ball in the stomach and some of it it looked like it had been there for some time."

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"It was desperately sad," resident Dan Perry told BBC News. "It does show the scale of the problem we have with marine pollution."

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The SMASS said it found no evidence the plastic in the whale's stomach factored into its beaching.

"This amount of plastic in the stomach is nonetheless horrific, must have compromised digestion, and serves to demonstrate, yet again, the hazards that marine litter and lost or discarded fishing gear can cause to marine life," it said.

"We are looking in more detail to see if we can work out quite why this animal ended up with so much of it in its stomach."

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