Mankind’s reliance on single-use plastics is to blame for the death of yet another endangered whale. This time, a young sei whale washed ashore on Masonboro Island in North Carolina. The emaciated mammal had plastic bag remnants and sea grass caught in her throat. Authorities euthanized her, as it was deemed the most ethical course of action.
WECT reports that the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Marine Mammal Stranding Program was the first to respond to reports of the 17-foot whale washing ashore. According to the state’s Stranding Coordinator William McLellan, the sei whale is rare to the east coast and likely traveled miles before landing on the island.
McLellan noted that the whale looked sick and emaciated. A volunteer veterinarian euthanized the whale after heavily sedating it. Following a necropsy (animal autopsy), researchers discovered discarded trash and sea grass in the whale’s throat.
“It wasn’t able to get food into the mouth so, we are not quite sure when that happened,” McLellan said. “It was either early on and it started the animal debilitating process or the animal could have been debilitated. We have collected a bunch of samples for viral analysis and bacteriology.”
Posted by Robbie Johnson on Sunday, January 6, 2019
The utilization of single-use plastics is out of control. “It’s incredibly sad,” said Amanda Jacobs, marketing manager for the Surfrider Foundation said. “Mammals washing up on our beaches. It’s just terrible and it’s totally preventable. That’s the thing. We can totally prevent this. This did not need to happen.”
Jacobs added that everyone needs to focus on reducing the prevalence of single-use plastics. “Now we are doing many more beach sweeps, beach clean-ups and a lot more educating in schools about not using plastics and reducing the use,” she said
It is estimated that 4 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide annually. Unfortunately, only 1% of plastic bags are ever returned for recycling. This leads to Americans throwing away a staggering 100 billion plastic bags each year. That’s about 307 bags per person!
When plastic bags and other non-biodegrade goods are tossed into the trash, they often make their way to landfills where they sit and leach toxins into the environment for years. Sometimes, plastic goods also make their way into the ocean. In pristine environments, they confuse and choke marine life, such as the sei whale.
Humans have the opportunity to prevent further suffering by choosing to commit to sustainable living habits. The simplest method to prevent additional plastic bags from washing out to the ocean is to use reusable shopping bags. You can also take your own reusable produce bags to the grocery store and purchase staples in bulk quantities.
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