A sperm whale that died after being stranded on a Scottish island was found to have 220 pounds of trash in its stomach.
The whale was nearly 46 feet long and weighed around 26 tons — 52,000 pounds — according to Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS), a Scottish organization that investigates stranded marine animals.
It washed up on the shore of Seilebost Beach in Scotland’s Isle of Harris, according to Dan Parry, who lives in Luskentyre, Scotland, and is an administrator of a Facebook page to keep the nearby Luskentyre Beach clean.
Fishing nets, bundles of rope, plastic cups, plastic bags and other garbage were found in the whale’s stomach, per a necropsy done by SMASS.
“All this material was in a huge ball in the stomach and some of it it looked like it had been there for some time,” they wrote on a Facebook post published Sunday.
They wrote that the whale “wasn’t in particularly poor condition,” and they couldn’t confirm that the garbage contributed to its stranding or starvation.
SMASS wrote that it is unclear what resulted in the excess of debris in the whale’s stomach. The trash found in the whale’s stomach, they explained, “seemed to have originated from both the land and fishing sectors.”
They added that the discovery of the whale whale “serves to demonstrate, yet again, the hazards that marine litter and lost or discarded fishing gear can cause to marine life.”
Parry said the whale’s intestines had virtually nothing in them.
“The issue of pollution, plastics and ocean debris is a worldwide issue that needs action,” he told USA TODAY in a Facebook message. “We all need to use less plastic but also get involved in cleaning up what is already out there. Too many people turn a blind eye to it thinking it’s someone else’s problem.”
SMASS buried the whale on-site. “If you go to the beach today, there should be almost no evidence that there was a large sperm whale necropsy undertaken there this weekend,” they wrote.
This isn’t the first time this year where a dead whale was found to have garbage in its stomach. A dead whale found in the Philippines in March had 88 pounds of plastic trash in its stomach.
Ninety and a half percent of plastic is not recycled and millions of metric tons a year pour into the planet’s oceans.
Contributing: Ashley May, USA TODAY. Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote