An 8-meter (26-foot) pregnant sperm whale washed ashore off Sardinia with 22 kilograms (48.5 pounds) of plastic in its belly this week. The event led the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) to issue a warning about the increasing dangers of plastic waste in our seas.
A pregnant whale carcass washed ashore in Italy with 22kg of plastic in its stomach.— WWF 🐼 (@WWF) April 1, 2019
This is the 4th reported incident since November. We must act now to protect our precious marine life.#StopPlasticPollution now: https://t.co/b6QppXnrln pic.twitter.com/cIhZloMsrQ
Fourth reported incident
"This is the 4th reported incident since November. We must act now to protect our precious marine life," said the organization's tweet.
"It is the first time we have been confronted with an animal with such a huge quantity of garbage," Cinzia Centelegghe, a biologist with the University of Padova, told the Turin daily La Stampa.
Exams revealed the garbage in the sperm whale's stomach featured all kinds of plastics including a corrugated tube for electrical works, shopping bags and fishing lines. It was also revealed the whale was carrying a dead fetus.
Experts concluded that the whale had died due to being unable to digest food because the amount of garbage was filling two-thirds of its stomach.
Eight million tonnes a year
The WWF says that only 9% of plastics are recycled globally and that 80% of ocean plastic originates on land. They estimate that eight million tonnes of plastic are leaking into our oceans every year.
"Plastic has contaminated the soil, rivers, and oceans. It’s even entered our food chain. Every year, people and animals are ingesting more plastic from food and drinking water," reads the environmental group's petition.
The European Parliament has already approved a new law banning many single-use plastic products starting in 2021.
Italy's environment minister, Sergio Costa, told ABC News that he planned to propose another law this week to deal with plastic pollution.
The law will give permission to fishermen to bring plastics recovered at sea to land for proper disposal.
"We have been using disposable plastics in a carefree way in these years, and now we are paying the price," he said. "The war on disposable plastics has started. And we won't stop here."