Greenpeace in Italy shared graphic pictures of a beached sperm whale carcass found on the coast of Sicilia on social media over the weekend. When the whale was cut open, multiple bits of plastic waster were found clogging the young animal’s stomach.
It was unclear if the plastic was the cause of death, but it couldn’t be ruled out, said Giorgia Monti, Greenpeace Italia’s campaign manager.
“As you can see from the images we’re sharing, a lot of plastic was found in its stomach,” he said in a statement.
“A probe of the sperm whale’s death has just started, and we don’t know yet if the animal died because of this, but we certainly can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”
Local researcher Carmelo Isgro helped carry out a necropsy on the whale on the beach on Sunday local time and posted graphic videos of the procedure on Facebook.
“They are strong images, but I want everyone to see and understand what we are doing to our sea and its inhabitants,” he wrote.
Speaking to CNN, he said the team found “several kilograms worth of plastic” that he deemed to be the likely cause of death.
“I’m still shocked because her belly was completely full, swollen with plastic,” he said.
Normally, sperm whales live to about 70 years of age, but this animal was so young its teeth had yet to appear.
It’s certainly becoming a familiar sight on coastlines throughout Europe and Asia in the past year.
In April, an eight-meter sperm whale was found dead off the Italian island of Sardinia with 22 kilograms of plastic in its stomach. The whale was pregnant and unable to digest calamari due to the huge amount of plastic it had taken in, filling two-thirds of its stomach.
In March, a starving whale was found beached in the Philippines with 40 kilos of plastic rubbish in its stomach. It was described as one of the worst cases of poisoning local environmental groups had seen.
In November, a dead sperm whale washed ashore in eastern Indonesia with 115 plastic cups, plastic bags and two pairs of thongs later found in its stomach.
In early 2018, a juvenile sperm whale washed up on a Spanish beach with nearly 30 kilograms of plastic in its stomach.
Another sperm whale died off the Italian island of Ischia, near Naples, last December with plastic bags and a thick nylon thread in its stomach, but plastic was not the cause of death.
This story originally appeared in news.com.au.