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May 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 42, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Sperm Whales Killed by Plastic

from the May, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

A post-mortem conducted on 13 beached sperm whales revealed the dreadful effect of human waste. The dead creatures, found ashore near the town of Toenning in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, had stomachs full of plastic, including a 43-foot-long fisherman's net and a 28-inch piece of plastic from a car. The sperm whales probably didn't die by being poisoned by plastic, though. Scientists think it was likely they perished from heart failure due to starvation, Schleswig-Holstein Environment Minister Robert Habeck told Britain's Daily Mail.

"Animals inadvertently consume plastic and plastic waste, which causes them to suffer, and at worst, causes them to starve with full stomachs."

The whales were all male, between 10 and 15 years old, and all weighed around 15 tons; the average weight of a sperm whale is 32 to 41 tons.

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