In January Sperm whales started beaching themselves all over Northern Europe. In total 30 whales were found washed ashore. The initial cause of these beaches was uncertain but certainly at a much higher rate of beachings than the area is accustom to seeing.
Autoptopsy were scheduled to try and determine the cause of this mass beaching. It is important to try and find the cause because the sperm whale is a vulnerable species and while its population seems to be increasing the results of the autopsies are quite disturbing.
Thirteen of the of the beached sperm whales near Toenning, Germany were found to have plastic in their stomachs. However, it does not appear that the plastic was the cause of death, rather cardiac and circulatory failure from starvation.
All of the whales were males between 10 and 15 years old. But they were roughly have the size expected of these animals at 16 tons. Sperm whales are typically between 35-45 tons. It is thought that storms in the northeast Atlantic moved the whales food into the North Sea. Following their food, they ended up stranded in waters that are just to shallow for the whales to thrive.
Included in the contents of the whale’s stomachs were a 28 inch piece of plastic from a car and a 43 foot long fisherman’s net. Finding these contents is a harsh reminder of the entire impact that humans are having on the planet.