A dead whale washed to the shore in eastern Indonesia. The 31 foot mammoth beast was found to have 13 pounds of plastic waste in its stomach. The plastic included flip-flops and 115 drinking cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, a nylon sack and more than 1,000 other assorted pieces of plastic, a park official said. This has created a stir among environmentalists and government officials in one of the world’s largest plastic polluting countries.
Rescuers from Wakatobi national park found the carcass of the sperm whale on Monday near the park in Southeast Sulawesi province. They received a report from environmentalists that villagers had surrounded the dead whale and were beginning to butcher the rotting carcass, park chief Heri Santoso said.
“Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts that we see are truly awful,” said Dwi Suprapti, a marine species conservation coordinator at WWF Indonesia.
She said it was not possible to determine if the plastic had caused the whale’s death because of the animal’s advanced state of decay.
Indonesia has 260 million people and is the world’s second-largest plastic polluter after China, according to a study published in the journal Science in January. It produces 3.2 million tons of mismanaged plastic waste a year. Approximately 1.3 million tons ends up in the ocean, the study said.
Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister of maritime affairs, said the whale’s discovery should raise public awareness about the need to reduce plastic use. The government is looking into taking tougher measures to protect the ocean.
“I’m so sad to hear this,” said Pandjaitan, who has campaigned for less use of plastic. “It is possible that many other marine animals are also contaminated with plastic waste and this is very dangerous for our lives.”
“This big ambition can be achieved if people learn to understand that plastic waste is a common enemy,” he told The Associated Press.