“Basically, wherever we’re looking for plastics, we’re finding them.”
Last week, a young 1100-pound curvier beaked whale washed ashore in the Philippines. It had been sighted swimming erratically and coughing up blood before it died, struggling to breathe and stay oriented in the water. The results of the necropsy that followed give some idea of the pain and suffering that accompanied the whale’s final hours and days, as well as offer an indictment of our entire sloppy, entitled civilization.
Almost 90 pounds of plastic bags was removed from the whale’s stomach, a lump the size of a couple of basketballs, compressed into a solid mass, with some of the bags having been there so long they had begun to calcify. The whale starved to death, unable to get any nutrients into a digestive system that was clogged with marine waste. The story is here, I don’t need to rehash all of it.
The thing that strikes me, beyond the obvious tragedy of it all, is that this horrible and needless death is just the tip of the iceberg. The oceans are huge places and for every whale or dolphin or sea turtle that we know of that has been victimized by plastic, that washes up on the beach somewhere, there are doubtless thousands of others that die in complete obscurity, far beyond our ability to track them.
This particular whale was a clear message to all of us, much like the others that came before it. The question is whether we will hear it this time, or whether it will pass quietly from the headlines, out of mind, until it happens again. What do you think?