Rarely-Seen Whale Euthanized Because its Stomach Was Crammed With Plastic

Wardens had to put down a cuvier’s beaked whale in Norway because it was full of plastic garbage. Image: University of Bergen


The Inertia

A cuvier’s beaked whale had to be killed in Norway a few days ago after it stranded itself repeatedly. Its stomach was crammed full of plastic, and its intestines were blocked.

According to the American Cetacean Society, “the cuvier beaked whale… is so rarely seen that almost everything known about this small whale has come from studying stranded animals.” After the whale in Norway was euthanized, researchers at the University of Bergen did an autopsy and found thirty plastic bags, along with other pieces of plastic detritus.

Researchers from the university show plastic bags found inside the stomach of a two-ton whale that was beached in shallow waters off Sotra, an island west of Bergen, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) northwest of Oslo. Image: University of Bergen

Researchers from the university show plastic bags found inside the stomach of a two-ton whale that was beached in shallow waters off Sotra, an island west of Bergen, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) northwest of Oslo. Image: University of Bergen

“The whale’s stomach was full of plastic bags and packaging with labels in Danish and English,” Dr Terje Lislevand, a zoologist at the University who studied the whale, said to Norwegian news outlets. “The findings are not surprising, but clearly it is sad to discover such large quantities.”

About a year ago, thirteen sperm whales washed up dead on various beaches in Germany. It was part of a strange spate of beachings ranging in location from the Netherlands, France, Denmark, and Germany. It made international headlines twice: first because their deaths were a mystery, and second when it became apparent that they were all full of plastic. The cause of death was put down as acute cardiovascular failure, and it was a global eye-opener about the hazards of our disposable lifestyle.

“When we’ve created a life that is so incredibly self-serving that we’re actually killing other species just by living comfortably,” I wrote back in June, “it might be time to take a good hard look at how violently selfish our comforts have become.” We aren’t learning fast enough, though. Despite the fact that there are plenty of other options, there simply aren’t enough of them available to the average consumer to make any real difference.

The Norway curvier’s beaked whale that was put down by wardens was in bad shape. Malnourished and nearly blubberless, it appeared that the whale had been accidentally consuming plastic for a long period of time, causing it to slowly starve to death. The blocked intestines would have caused severe pain, as well.

“I think the whale has been in pain, “Dr. Lislevand said. “I don’t think it’s been comfortable to have this in the stomach. It’s the explanation of why the animal acted so strange and stranded.”




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