A pilot whale found on May 25 in a canal in Thailand near the Malaysian border died Friday night. The autopsy revealed that the male pilot whale swallowed 17 pounds (8 kilograms) or a total of 80 plastic bags that remained stuck in his stomach.
A team of marine rescuers and veterinarians tried to improve the whale's condition, which initially struggled in breathing and swimming. The animal eventually vomited five plastic bags while he was being rescued.
"[On] the evening of June 1, the whale contracted and regurgitated a large plastic bag, [and] then the whale began to tug and regurgitate the plastic [up] to five times. The team of veterinarians and staff have mobilized to help keep the medicine and support to full force," Thailand's Department of Marine and Coastal Resources wrote on its Facebook page.
The photos posted on DMCR Thailand's Facebook account showed numerous black plastic bags being pulled out one by one by the authorities. The death of the pilot whale is the latest high-profile case of a marine creature that lived in an ocean of plastic wastes.
Mistaken For Food
The officials have yet to determine if the animal was a short-finned or long-finned pilot whale. The American Cetacean Society noted that pilot whales primarily eat squid but also feed on octopus, cuttlefish, and herring.
This is why the authorities ruled that the deceased pilot whale could have mistaken the plastic bags for food. Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biologist and a lecturer at Kasetsart University in Bangkok, said that the plastics might have prevented the whale from digesting food.
In a 2014 PLOS One study, researchers found that there are more than 5 trillion plastic pieces weighing over 250,000 tons floating on major international waters.
Orb Media, a nonprofit journalism organization, published a related study in 2017 reporting that 83 percent of water samples collected from more than a dozen countries have plastic fiber traces.
These plastic wastes come from synthetic fibers in clothing, tire dust, paints, secondary microplastics, synthetic fibers in the air, and microbeads.
"At least 8 million tons of mishandled plastic waste washes into the world's oceans, rivers, and lakes each year. These forks, bags, straws, and takeout containers churn and fragment in the frigid seas, breaking down into ever-smaller pieces to join the marine and human food chains — the microplastics of the future," Orb Media wrote on their website.