Pregnant whale found dead with nearly 50 pounds of plastic in stomach

The carcass of a pregnant sperm whale found washed up on a beach in Sardinia, Italy, last week had approximately 49 pounds of plastic waste in its stomach, according to the country's wildlife officials. 

The mammal had consumed a variety of man-made items, including garbage bags, fishing nets and lines and a "bag of a washing machine liquid still identifiable, with brand and barcode," Luca Bittau, president of the Scientific Education & Activities in the Marine Environment (SeaMe) group, told CNN.

Bittau said the whale's fetus was in an "advanced state" of decomposition and that it had almost certainly died before its mother had beached.

The whale's 26-foot carcass was hoisted onto a truck and hauled away to Padua, northern Italy, where veterinarians will determine its exact cause of death. However, researchers told the Telegraph that there is little doubt that plastic consumption played a role.

Sergio Costa, Italy's environmental minister, took to Facebook following the troubling discovery, writing: "Is there still anyone who says that these are not important problems? For me, yes, and they are priorities. The marine litter (the litter of waste at sea) afflicts the whole marine world, not just Italy, of course, but every country in the world has the DUTY to apply policies to combat it."

Costa also voiced his support for a European Parliament-approved piece of legislation which aims to protect marine waters from pollution by prohibiting the use and trade of certain single-use items by 2021.

"The war on disposable plastic has begun," the minister added. "And we won't stop here."

In November 2018, a sperm whale carcass that washed up on the coast of Indonesia was found to have consumed about 13 pounds of plastic garbage.

Just last month, another dead sperm whale washed ashore in the Philippines with 88 pounds of plastic trash inside its stomach.

The string of similar incidents has brought renewed attention to the world's plastic pollution crisis

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A Vietnamese woman drives past recyclable plastic bottles at Xa Cau village, outside Hanoi, Vietnam June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
FILE PHOTO: Fisherman boats are seen in a beach with plastic waste at a the beach in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kham/Files
Recycled plastic bottles are seen at Xa Cau village, outside Hanoi, Vietnam June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A person is seen at the beach covered with plastic waste in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A woman removes plastic waste stuck in tree branches near the beach in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Recycled plastic bottles are seen at Xa Cau village, outside Hanoi, Vietnam June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A Vietnamese woman drives past recyclable plastic bottles at Xa Cau village, outside Hanoi, Vietnam June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A Vietnamese man works recycling plastic bottles at Xa Cau village, outside Hanoi, Vietnam June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Fishermen boats are seen at a beach covered with plastic waste in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A fishing boat is seen during the low tide at the beach in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kham TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
FILE PHOTO: A woman cleans plastic waste stock in trees near the beach in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kham/Files
A Vietnamese man works recycling plastic bottles at Xa Cau village, outside Hanoi, Vietnam June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
TOPSHOT - Scavengers collect valuable waste at Sidoarjo garbage dump in East Java, on June 5, 2018. - About eight million tonnes of plastic waste are dumped into the world's oceans every year - the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic being tipped into the sea every minute... of every day. Over half comes from five Asian countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, according to a 2015 study in Science journal. (Photo by JUNI KRISWANTO / AFP) (Photo credit should read JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman walks at the beach covered with plastic waste in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Scavengers collect valuable waste at Sidoarjo garbage dump in East Java, on June 5, 2018. - About eight million tonnes of plastic waste are dumped into the world's oceans every year - the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic being tipped into the sea every minute... of every day. Over half comes from five Asian countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, according to a 2015 study in Science journal. (Photo by JUNI KRISWANTO / AFP) (Photo credit should read JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP/Getty Images)
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