“The Plastic Whale” refers to a Cuvier beaked whale that surfaced near Bergen, Norway, and then died. When it was opened up it was found to have 30 plastic bags of all kinds and many other pieces of micro-plastic filling its stomach and blocking its intestines. This is not unique, such findings have been made in other countries where whales are being caught and where they live, including Japan and the UK.
A survey of beaches in places as far apart as the far north of Norway and tiny islands in the center of the Pacific Ocean show enormous amounts of plastic being washed up on shore, so much so that it seems impossible to clean them. Literally tons of plastic, bags, sheets, lines, buckets, toothbrushes, computer parts, every possible kind of plastic is ending up in the sea, and because it is indestructible it is remaining for many, many years. A recent survey was made of Henderson Island, an uninhabited atoll of the Pitcairn group of islands, and the astounding finding was that it had 17 tons of plastic on its beaches consisting of 38 million pieces of plastic!
And this doesn’t include the pieces of micro-plastic that are ground down by the effect of the sea and waves and are as small as the grains of sand. All such plastic collects in the bodies of sea creatures, fish, crustaceans, sharks, dolphins and whales, and they are unable to digest/excrete them and it leads to their death. What is astounding it that whales that spend only a small part of their time at the surface of the ocean breathing have so much plastic in them that they must have ingested in the depths of the ocean.
Who is responsible for this terrible state of affairs? Of course, the public that uses plastic for so many things, but the consumers can’t take all of the blame. Those who dispose of trash in the sea and the oceans are chiefly responsible for this devastating infestation. Also, the manufacturers of plastic packaging materials. They must switch to new kinds of materials that can be degraded by sea and water. People will be prepared to pay a little more for their goods if they know the packaging will not be polluting the planet and its oceans and killing its wild-life for generations to come.
Generally, I am not considered to be a liberal. I remember being amused years ago by the bumper sticker “Save the gay whales.” But this is serious, something must be done! Public pressure in Norway has caused the Government to agree that the Environment Ministry will take responsibility for cleaning the beaches and will change its policies regarding the use of plastic. Also, they will bring a suitable proposal to the UN, because it really is an international problem. A whale constructed from plastic found inside whales will be touring the UK. Let’s try to stop killing the whales. Let’s stop dumping plastic into the sea, let’s reduce the amount of plastic we throw in the trash. It can be done.