21 Nov 2018

Marine wildlife suffers as plastic pollutes oceans

From Checkpoint, 5:55 pm on 21 November 2018

Plastic is poisoning our oceans - and nowhere is it more visible than in the guts of a dead sperm whale found in Indonesia yesterday.

A dead sperm whale was found with almost 6kg of plastic inside it on a beach in Indonesia. 21 November 2018

A dead sperm whale was found with almost 6kg of plastic inside it. Photo: Twitter @WWF_ID

A total of 115 plastic cups, two jandals, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, all weighing nearly six kilograms were pulled from its beached body

Marine scientists in Indonesia were not able to determine the cause of death of the 9.5m mammal, but say that the plastic they saw was truly awful.

In a tweet, WWF Indonesia gave the breakdown of what was found inside the animal:

Unfortunately, it is not the first whale to have died with its stomach choked with plastic.

In June, a pilot whale died off southern Thailand after swallowing 80 plastic bags.

Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines are reported to account for more than half of the plastic waste that ends up in oceans.

But the plastic problem is not limited to South East Asia - New Zealand's wildlife is also struggling to cope with the pollution

Auckland Zoo's senior veterinarian An Pas said plastic filled the insides of turtles and wrapped itself around seals.

"We have seen several sea turtles that came in with small amounts of plastic and we had one hawksbill turtle that came in with a lot of plastic that had actually obstructed its intestine.

"It sits all in their intestines; they can't digest their food - what they need - so they will become weak, so they might just starve, or they will get other infections."

Sustainable Coastlines co-founder Sam Judd said plastic was a problem for every country using it.

Stopping plastic at its source was the only way to keep it out of the ocean, he said.

"We really need to look at how much plastic we are consuming on a personal level and in particular single use plastic... more than seventy percent of what we collect off New Zealand's coast is single use plastic," Mr Judd said.

"We really need to focus on solutions... things like a re-usable coffee cup, reusable water bottle, even a reusable shopping bag - they're a really easy start."

A report released earlier this year warned that the amount of plastic in the ocean could triple in a decade unless litter was curbed.

At the end of last year, the UN said marine life was facing "irreparable damage" from the approximately 10 million tonnes of plastic waste ending up in the oceans every year.

Watch Nita Blake Persen's full video report here: