*Warning, pictures may be disturbing to some readers*
SARDINIA, Italy—The carcass of a pregnant sperm whale that washed up in Sardinia, Italy, last week had 49 pounds (22 kilograms) of plastic in its stomach, and was carrying a dead fetus, the country’s environment minister and a marine life non-profit organization said.
Luca Bittau, president of the SeaMe group, told CNN the beached mammal’s remains contained “garbage bags … fishing nets, lines, tubes, the bag of a washing machine liquid still identifiable, with brand and barcode … and other objects no longer identifiable.”
Her stomach contained "garbage bags … fishing nets, lines, tubes, the bag of a washing machine liquid still identifiable, with brand and barcode …"
“She was pregnant and had almost certainly aborted before (she) beached,” he said. “The fetus was in an advanced state of composition.”
The dead animal, which was 26 feet (8 meters) long, washed up on a beach in the Sardinian tourist hotspot of Porto Cervo.
Bittau said the cause of death would be known after histological and toxicological examinations carried out by veterinarians in Padua, northern Italy.
Sergio Costa, Italy’s environment minister, said in a Facebook post: “Are there still people who say these are not important problems? For me they are, and they are priorities.”
Questo capodoglio è stato trovato morto a Porto Cervo in Sardegna: nella pancia aveva un feto e 22kg di plastica… C'è…
“We’ve used the ‘comfort’ of disposable objects in a lighthearted way in the past years and now we are paying the consequences. Indeed the animals, above all, are the ones paying them,” he continued.
Costa also referred to the recent approval by the European Parliament of a law banning a wide-range of single-use plastic items, such as straws, cotton buds and cutlery, by 2021.
“Italy will be one of the first countries to implement it,” he promised. “The war on disposable plastic has begun. And we won’t stop here.”
Last month, a young whale was found dead in the Philippines with 85 pounds (40 kilograms) of plastic bags in its stomach.
“I was not prepared for the amount of plastic. 40 kilos roughly of rice sacks, grocery bags, banana plantation bags, and general plastic bags. Sixteen rice sacks in total. It was so big, the plastic was beginning calcification,” Marine biologist Darrell Blatchley told CNN over the weekend.
“This whale had the most plastic we have ever seen in a whale. It’s disgusting,” he said.
He called on the Philippine government and Filipinos to not use single-use plastic items.
It was an unusually large amount of plastic even by the grim standards of what is a common threat to marine wildlife.
“The Philippine people are a proud people, sadly it’s not in being clean or taking care of the environment. In the last 10 years we have recovered 61 whales and dolphins, of which 57 have died due to fishing nets, dynamite fishing, and plastic garbage. Four were pregnant. This cannot continue. The Philippines needs to change from the children up or nothing will be left,” Blatchley told CNN.
The Ocean Conservancy said that single-use plastic items are common in Southeast Asia and China.
The organization said in 2017 that China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam have been dumping more plastic into the world’s oceans that the rest of the world combined.
“We also now have research to suggest that the majority of plastic enters the ocean from a small geographic area, and that over half comes from just five rapidly growing economies—China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. These countries have recently benefited from significant increases in GDP, reduced poverty, and improved quality of life. However, increasing economic power has also generated exploding demand for consumer products that has not yet been met with a commensurate waste-management infrastructure,” it said in a 2018 report.
The Epoch Times reporter Jack Phillips contributed to this report.