Did plastic kill the Northland whale?

It is a great shame that major news outlets in New Zealand are not more discerning about what they print.  Someone’s beliefs may be sincerely held, but nevertheless, still, personal beliefs are printed without any attempt to provide balance.  See this, from a newspaper. Quote.

The stranding and death of a 15m sperm whale is an example of how unhealthy our oceans are, according to a witness.

The whale came ashore near Dick Urlich Drive on Tokerau Beach, Karikari Peninsula, on Friday afternoon and was tossed about by the waves.

Department of Conservation staff and locals stayed with the giant mammal but it died in the early hours of Saturday.

Robert Urlich, who was born on Tokerau Beach, said sperm whales used to frequent the area but the whaling industry almost completely decimated the population. After commercial whaling stopping in 1923, it took a long time for the population to recover.

Whale deaths had increased in recent years, Urlich said.

“Recently, there have been a number of whale deaths worldwide; in fact, I think there have been an increase in the number of whale deaths and we don’t know why that should be, exactly.” End quote.

So, the whale population was significantly impacted by whaling but is now recovering.  Thus, there are more whales now, consequently, more whales get old and die. Seems a logical reason to note an increase in whale deaths.  But no; it’s got to be evil plastic. Quote.

Urlich suspects the deaths are a result of microplastics which have been found in the ocean.

The effects were devastating, he said.

“It’s not just the whales but the whole of the marine life, and not only the marine life but the birds that feed on the small fishes, they’ve been affected, too,” Urlich said.

“It gets us too in the longer term – humans – and it’s humans that have caused it in the first place.” End quote.

High on opinion, low on facts to back it all up.Quote.

On Saturday morning, a small crowd of onlookers watched in pouring rain as the whale was pulled ashore by a digger.

Urlich said once pulled ashore, samples would be taken from the whale and sent to a university to determine exactly what killed it.

After the samples were taken, the whale would be buried in the sand dunes.

Earlier this month, Indonesian villagers found the rotting carcass of a 9.5m sperm that had a large amount of plastic waste in its stomach.

Rescuers from Wakatobi National Park found the dead whale near the park in Southeast Sulawesi province after receiving a report from environmentalists that villagers were beginning to butcher it, park chief Heri Santoso said.

Santoso said researchers from wildlife conservation group WWF and the park’s conservation academy found about 5.9kg of plastic waste in the animal’s stomach: 115 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, two flip-flops, a nylon sack and more than 1000 other assorted pieces of plastic. End quote.

While there is no excuse for plastic being thrown into the oceans, some context is required.

An adult sperm whale can grow to 20m and weigh 57,000kg.  This one was only 9.5m so let’s say 25,000 kg. It had 6kg of plastic junk in its stomach.  For an 80kg human male that would be equivalent to 20g of plastic, or one 12 cm square Tupperware lid.

Would consuming that lid kill an adult human male?


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WH is a pale, stale, male who does not believe all the doom and gloom climate nonsense so enjoys generating CO2 that the plants need to grow by driving his MG.

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