Scientists have discovered that a sperm whale that washed up on the shores of southern Spain had 64 pounds of mostly plastic along with other debris in its stomach, which contributed to its death.

Sperm Whale Necropsy

Through a necropsy, scientists were able to determine the items stuck in its stomach and intestines. Among the items found were plastic bags, pieces of net, and a plastic water container.

The necropsy revealed that the whale died of an abdominal infection called peritonitis, an inflammation of the lining of the inner wall of the abdomen and cover of the abdominal organs. The researchers concluded that the whale suffered impact to its digestive tract, which made it unable to expel waste. 

A sperm whale's diet consists of mostly giant squid, but the 33-foot sperm whale that washed up on the shore of Murcia was unexpectedly thinner.

The sperm whale was found dead on February 27 near the lighthouse of Cabo de Palos in Murcia, Spain. Local officials were concerned as the whale is an endangered species.

Cleanup Time

The sperm whale prompted the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and the Environment in Murcia to launch an awareness campaign against the excessive use of plastics and leaving trash near marine environments in Murcia. They cite plastics as the greatest threat to wildlife in the ocean, as animals can be trapped in the trash or eat large amounts of plastics that can lead to their deaths.

Most of the cleanup effort will take place in areas around the coastal region of Murcia. The campaign features 11 actions that authorities will use to clean beaches in the region. They will also be collecting data on the type and amount of garbage that are littering Murcia's coastal region.

The authorities also activated a protocol of retrieving cetaceans (dolphins and whales) and sea turtles that the region has in place. 

A report released in March 2018 shows that 70 percent of litter found in the ocean is non-degradable plastic. It also found that the number is expected to triple within the next decade.

Meanwhile, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has recently been found to be 4 to 16 times larger than previously believed.

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