100kg of ropes, cups and other plastics found inside beached whale

A tangled ball of garbage about 100kg in weight has been found inside the stomach of a whale that beached in Scotland.

Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme called the find a "stunning, fascinating, briefly alarming and shameful" discovery. 

The sperm whale beached on Thursday, November 28, and had been there for two days when researchers arrived. 

"Pretty much most of the guts blew out of the side when we stuck a knife in it," the group said on its Facebook page. 

"Animals this size are so well insulated that even though the temperature outside barely got above freezing, they don't cool down and hence decompose incredibly quickly."

But it wasn't just guts they found.

"In this whale's stomach was approximately 100kg of marine debris - a whole range of plastic including sections of net, bundles of rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing. 

"All this material was in a huge ball in the stomach and some of it it looked like it had been there for some time."

Some of the material inside the whale.
Some of the material inside the whale. Photo credit: Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme

While it's not clear if the junk was responsible for the whale's death, the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme called it a "horrific" find.

"[It] must have compromised digestion, and serves to demonstrate, yet again, the hazards that marine litter and lost or discarded fishing gear can cause to marine life. 

"It is also perhaps a good example that this is a global issue caused by a whole host of human activities. This whale had debris in its stomach which seemed to have originated from both the land and fishing sectors, and could have been swallowed at any point between Norway and the Azores."

The Azores are chain of islands in the eastern Atlantic ocean, off the coast of Portugal. 

Earlier this year a whale that beached in Italy had 22kg of plastic in its stomach, and last year a whale that died in Spain had 29kg inside.