KOTA KINABALU: A whale shark was found dead in waters off the Tanjung Aru beach in Menumbok, with a big plastic bag stuck in its stomach.
Post mortem results showed that the shark died due to starvation and indigestion.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said they sent a team to check on the carcass after being informed by a teacher who stumbled across it on Feb 5.
“Though whale sharks are not protected under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment, we were concerned there might be other casualties involving marine mammals,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Augustine said the team did not find any other beached carcasses besides the whale shark.
As for the plastic bag, Augustine said it measured 46cm by 32cm, and caused “a physical obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract of the whale”.
Manager of the Wildlife Rescue Unit Dr Sen Nathan said it was evident the cause of death was due to intestinal obstruction leading to starvation and death.
“Plastic pollution in our oceans is a very serious threat to marine wildlife.
“This should be a grave reminder of the need to dispose plastic properly, or even better, not using plastic bags and other plastic paraphernalia at all,” said Dr Sen.
Plastics are often mistaken for jellyfish and other food sources by marine creatures, and have been found to be the source of death in many of them.
Globally, 100,000 marine mammals die every year as a result of plastic pollution.
This includes whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and sea lions, said WWF International Network, the world’s leading, independent conservation organisation.
There are two ways that encountering marine debris can be fatal for these creatures – ingestion (eating) or entanglement in plastic-based fishing gear, added the movement.
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