Since Seaspiracy came out on Netflix and the whole world went nuts about it, we think it was time for us to go back to 2019. and remind ourselves of the horrible effect plastic has on the ocean and overall marine life.
A pregnant sperm whale washed up, dead, on a sandy beach outside Porto Cervo, a resort town on Italy’s island of Sardinia in 2019. When scientists and veterinarians cut open her womb and stomach, they found a dead baby whale, and nearly 50 pounds of plastic waste jammed into her belly.
The plastic filled MORE than two thirds of her stomach. They could also see the remains of some of the squid she’d eaten—but the nutrients from that food likely never made it into her bloodstream, because her intestines were blocked by the morass of plastic waste.
They found fishing nets, fishing lines, plastic bags (some so fresh the barcodes were still readable), plastic pipes, and even some plastic plates.
The scientists think the 26-foot long whale was part of a pod that spends its time feeding and birthing its babies in the nearby Caprera Canyon, a crevasse deep below the crystalline surface waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The region is popular with tourists and boaters, and biologists thought the biggest challenge the whales faced were the dangers of boat strikes—not plastic pollution.
The most confusing thing for whales is that a plastic bag waving in the deep ocean currents could be difficult to distinguish from a fluttering squid. And once a whale ingests it, that bag is stuck there. Each mistake a feeding whale makes adds to the problem, and slowly its stomach fills with the deadly material.
THE REAL PROBLEM
Plastic pollution has made its way to the deepest crevasses of the ocean, and the Mediterranean is no exception. It collects waste from the countries bordering it and that waste stays trapped in its waters—essentially forever. In a recent report, Greenpeace estimated that most of the 150,000 and 500,000 tons of large plastic debris that enters
European waterways ends up in the Mediterranean each year.
In response to the plastics crisis, the European Union PASSED A BAN in 2019., scheduled to go into effect this year, on many types of single-use plastics.