Whale of a tale: Death by 30 plastic bags

Incident off Norwegian coastline demonstrates tragedy of oceanic pollution

A sick Cuvier’s beaked whale was recently euthanized after showing signs of illness and repeatedly beaching itself near Norway’s west coast earlier this week.

This image of an albatross found in a remote Pacific location has become emblematic of catastrophic human waste

Upon inspection of the body, 30 plastic bags were found clogging its intestinal tract, leading to severe emaciation. This instance is but one of many daily occurrences for wildlife navigating the oceans while choking on plastics, and the problem only is projected to get worse. Every year 8 million metric tons of plastic are pitched into the sea; following this trajectory, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Currently there is precious little being done by governments to combat this escalating and pervasive problem. Instead, an innovative cleanup boom has been devised by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, a project that has mostly been crowdfunded by the good global citizens of the Netherlands. If the prototype is successful, a scaled-up version of it will be deployed to the Great Pacific garbage patch for further scrubbing. While this is an exciting innovation, much more funding will need to be made available in order to collect trash and reduce human impact on marine ecosystems already burdened by chronic overfishing. The future generations of species, both marine and terrestrial, hang in the balance.

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