KOTA KINABALU: Marine researchers are once again raising the alarm about the dumping of plastic material in the sea following the death of a pilot whale that was found to have ingested 4.25kg of plastic bags.
A post-mortem on the 310kg male pilot whale found that the three compartments of its stomach were filled with 14 pieces of large plastic bags, 11 small plastic bags, 11 plastic sheets and 6m of caution tape, among others.
Also discovered in the confines of its stomach was a yellow detergent bag manufactured in Guangzhou, China, said Universiti Malaysia Sabah Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI) director Assoc Prof Dr Rossita Shapawi.
“After the pilot whale ingested these plastic bags, its stomach was blocked and it could not consume anything else. It starved to death due to the plastic,” she added.
She said it was likely that the pilot whale had mistaken the plastic bags for food.
Giving details to the press about the death of the whale that was estimated to be between two and three years old, she said the pilot whale was the latest casualty of the tonnes of plastic waste in the ocean.
“It is very possible that we will see more marine creatures washed ashore, given the amount of plastic out there,” she said.
She said the pilot whale, initially thought to be a risso dolphin, was discovered by a villager at Likas Bay on March 19 and subsequently taken to the BMRI where it was given round-the-clock care.
Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said the condition of the pilot whale appeared to have improved after it was given antibiotics, painkillers, anti-parasitic drugs, appetite stimulants, gastric protectants, multivitamins and fluid therapy.
“However, its condition suddenly deteriorated. The pilot whale vomited and died on March 25,” he said.
Sen said wildlife rangers discovered a pantropical spotted dolphin in waters off the northern Kudat district in September last year that died due to plastic ingestion.
He said green turtles were the most common creatures to die in Sabah waters for that same reason.
UMS lecturer for water quality for aquaculture and marine pollution Dr Abentin Estim said a study last year of several beaches along the state’s west coast found 11,000 pieces of plastic bags per 100m stretch.
“The prevalence of plastic in our sea is a serious problem which needs to be tackled,” he said.