TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – An autopsy of a pregnant whale beached in eastern Taiwan revealed that its stomach was a "chaotic mess" of plastic garbage, according to the Ocean Conservation Administration (OCA).
The Ocean Conservation Administration and Taiwan Cetacean Society carried out the post-mortem on Tuesday (March 19). The 5.65-meter-long Cuvier's beaked whale was found on a Hualien County beach, one of three whales found dead in eastern Taiwan on Friday (March 15).
Ko Yung-chuan (柯勇全) of the OCA said the whale's body was bloated and pregnant with a 1.65-meter fetus. There were bite wounds, possibly from cookiecutter sharks, liver lesions, clots on the lungs, trachea and bronchi, and kidney parasites.
In the stomach, researchers found six plastic bags, four burlap bags over 100 cm in length, plastic sheeting, numerous tangled strips of plastic, two fishing lines and many other plastic fragments, described as a "chaotic mess of plastic."
Ko said there were also squid remains in the stomach, indicating it could still eat despite the plastic waste. A pathology exam has not been made yet so the cause of death has not been determined.
The OCA official said plastic waste poses a serious threat to marine life both in Taiwan and the Philippines. The organization urged fisherman to protect the environment and not discard waste in the sea.
An "environmental protection fleet" has been set up to patrol 19 coastal counties and cities, encouraging fishermen to properly dispose of waste on returning to shore. The OCA called for stricter regulations on the disposal and recycling of waste from fishing vessels.
The OCA also reminded the public to help protect the ocean environment by reducing their own plastic waste.