'Horrific' case of sperm whale washed up in Outer Hebrides with 100kg of rubbish in stomach

The 20-tonne sperm whale washed up on sandbanks off Harris with 100kg of litter found in its stomach. PIC: SMASS.
The 20-tonne sperm whale washed up on sandbanks off Harris with 100kg of litter found in its stomach. PIC: SMASS.
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Marine rescue experts have spoken of an 'alarming and shameful' stranding of a sperm whale off Harris who died with 100kg of litter in its stomach.

Fishing nets, rope, packing straps, bags and plastic cups were among the items discovered in a compacted mass.

Volunteers from the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme described the amount of litter the sperm whale had swallowed was 'utterly horrific'. PIC: SMASS.

Volunteers from the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme described the amount of litter the sperm whale had swallowed was 'utterly horrific'. PIC: SMASS.

The sperm whale stranded on sandbanks off Harris on Thursday with a team from Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme carrying out a Post Mortem on Luskentyre Beach over the weekend.

It is not clear whether the amount of debris found in his stomach contributed to the death but the organisation described the amount of plastic in its stomach as 'horrific'.

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A spokesman said the animal 'kind of exploded' as the post mortem got underway.

He said: "By the time we got to it had been dead for 48 hours and pretty much most of the guts blew out of the side when we stuck a knife in it.

"Animals this size are so well insulated that even though the temperature outside barely got above freezing, they don’t cool down and hence decompose incredibly quickly.

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"In this whale’s stomach was approximately 100kg of marine debris- a whole range of plastic including sections of net, bundles of rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing.

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.

"This amount of plastic in the stomach is nonetheless horrific, must have compromised digestion, and serves to demonstrate, yet again, the hazards that marine litter and lost or discarded fishing gear can cause to marine life."

The organisation thanked the Coastguard and Western Isles Council for their help in conducting the necropsy and then bury the whale, with the beach returned to 'pristine condition' afterwards.