A Pregnant Whale Found Was Dead on Italian Beach With 49 Pounds of Plastic in Her Stomach

A dead fetus was also found inside the female sperm whale.

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Apr. 2 2019, Updated 10:01 a.m. ET

Whales belong in the ocean, and plastic belongs, well, not in whale's bodies. Unfortunately, the planet's plastic problem just isn't letting those basic concepts be. Last week, a female sperm whale washed up on the coast of Sardinia, Italy, the Huffington Post reported. A necropsy was performed, and the 26-foot long whale was found to be pregnant, with 49 pounds of plastic in her stomach.

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As The Telegraph reported, the whale's body was found on the shore of a private beach resort in Cala Romantica, near Porto Cervo, by the resort's caretaker. Sergio Costa, Italy's Minister of the Environment, shared details of the beached whale's death in a Facebook post. 

"This sperm whale was found dead in Porto Cervo in Sardinia: in the belly [she] had a fetus and 22 kg (49 pounds) of plastic," Costa wrote in Italian on Facebook, according to Facebook's translation tool. "Is there still someone who says these are not important problems? For me yes, and they are priority."

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The whale's body was recovered by SEAME Sardinia, which is a coalition of marine biologists, environmental educators, and more, who aim to study and conserve the Mediterranean Sea and its inhabitants. In a Facebook post on Thursday, SEAME Sardinia explained that its team spent all day working on recovering the whale's heavy body. The organization also shared that a team of veterinarians and researchers were planning to study the whale for more information on why she died, which has since happened.

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CNN spoke with Luca Bittau, president of SEAME Sardinia, for an update on what the whale's necropsy revealed. Bittau told CNN that the plastic found in the sperm whale's body included: "garbage bags ... fishing nets, lines, tubes, the bag of a washing machine liquid still identifiable, with brand and barcode ... and other objects no longer identifiable."

Bittau also told the outlet that the whale had a dead fetus in "an advanced state of composition," who was most likely aborted before the sperm whale washed ashore.

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As The Telegraph added, a team of researchers from the city of Sassari and the University of Padua worked with SEAME Sardinia on the whale's necropsy. The team believes that the plastic in the whale's stomach caused her to become malnourished, which in turn meant she was unable to provide nutrients to her growing fetus.

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Marine biologist Mattia Leone was there during the necropsy, and she opened up about the experience to The Telegraph. “It was dramatic to find the fetus ... we felt bad already at that point," Mattia Leone told the outlet. “But then when we opened the stomach and saw all the plastic, we realized, yet again, we were bearing witness to this very worrisome, sad situation.”

Just last month, another beached whale made headlines for dying due to a similar fate. In the Philippines, a juvenile male Cuvier's beaked whale was found dead, with 88 pounds of plastic in his stomach. If you'd like for less marine animals to die due to plastic pollution, consider reducing your use of single-use plastic, and writing to your local leaders about implementing stricter regulations on single-use plastic.

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