Dead whale washes up on Indonesian beach with 1000 pieces of plastic in its stomach

  • 21/11/2018

A dead whale that washed up on the shores of Indonesia had more than 1000 pieces of plastic in its stomach.

The rotting corpse of a 9.5-metre sperm whale was found on Monday in the water of Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi.

Local villagers were the first on the scene, The Guardian reports, and were in the process of butchering the carcass before park conservationists arrived.

Upon examination, the whale's body was found to contain almost 6kg of plastic waste - including 115 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, a nylon sack and a pair of jandals, along with more than 1000 other assorted pieces of plastic debris.

Some of the assorted debris found in the whale's stomach.
Some of the assorted debris found in the whale's stomach. Photo credit: Muhammad Irpan Sejati Tassaka AKKP Wakatobi

The grim discovery has raised alarm bells among environmentalists - although the corpse's advanced state of decay meant researchers couldn't verify whether the whale had died from eating so much plastic, or from another unrelated cause.

Indonesia is the world's second-largest source of plastic pollution after China, with its population of 260 million producing 3.2 million tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste per year. AP reports 1.29 million tonnes of that waste ends up in the ocean.  

Indonesia's coordinating minister of maritime affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, who has campaigned for reducing plastic waste, said he was "so sad" to hear about the discovery of the whale.

"It is possible that many other marine animals are also contaminated with plastic waste and this is very dangerous for our lives," he told AP.

He said the government was taking action to reduce the country's use of plastic by 70 percent by 2025 through nationwide education, and urging shops not to give customers plastic bags.

"This big ambition can be achieved if people learn to understand that plastic waste is a common enemy," he told AP.

It's not the first time this year that a dead whale has been found to have eaten huge amounts of plastic.

In April, a sperm whale was discovered on the Spanish coast with 29kg of plastic debris in its body, while a pilot whale died in Thailand in June with more than 80 plastic bags clogging its stomach.