How one whale changed how we look at plastic
For most of us, plastic is a relatively invisible part of our lives. Sure we might frown at litter on the side of the road, but we rarely think much about the plastic trash that fills our trash cans every day. As long as it is contained neatly in (plastic) bags and tossed in the trash, it disappears from our minds.That all changed for thousands of people when a whale, so sick it had to be euthanized, washed up on a Norwegian shoreline. When scientists checked the stomach contents of the whale, they found over 30 plastic bags completely blocking his stomach and contributing to his eventual starvation and death. This rare whale spends only 8% of its time on the surface, preferring to spend most of its time hunting for squid in the depths of the ocean. Locating its prey by echolocation, he probably mistook the plastic bags for squid as they sound very similar.
Unfortunately, the goose-beaked whale isn't the only one to have died from plastic. A whale in Thailand also died from plastic, and still more are injured or die from entanglement in abandoned fishing nets and other plastic material. These whales captured the imagination of the planet, and through their tragic deaths, have changed how many people are looking at the stuff they throw away. Hundreds of men and women gather together now on the Norwegian coasts to clean up as much plastic as they can, and just this month over 180 countries signed an agreement to change how they manage their discarded plastics. There's no doubt that throw away plastics are bad for the environment, but the good news is things are finally being done about it. You can help too, by joining clean up days, recycling as much as possible, and taking a hard look at the single-use plastics in your own home.
Watch the documentary Plastic Whale to learn more.