Asia Minute: 13 Pounds of Plastic in Whale’s Stomach off Indonesia

Nov 21, 2018

Sperm Whale
Credit Amila Tennakoon / Flickr

Plastic and oceans are a bad combination. It’s a growing problem not only here in Hawai‘i but around the Pacific. And an event this week in Indonesia is the latest reminder.

The carcass of a dead sperm whale washed ashore on the beach of a national park in Indonesia this week, and stunned park rangers with what was inside.

Nearly 13 pounds of plastic waste was in the animal’s stomach.

Researchers with the World Wildlife Fund Indonesia ticked off the contents — including 25 plastic bags, four plastic bottles, 19 pieces of hard plastic, two rubber slippers and 115 plastic cups.

It was impossible to tell whether the plastic actually killed the 31-foot mammal, because the carcass was so badly decomposed.

Indonesia’s minister of maritime affairs said the case should raise public awareness about the need to reduce the use of plastics.

A study published in the journal Science this year found Indonesia to be the second-largest producer of plastic pollution in the world . . . trailing only China.

That article said the country produces more than 3 million tons of plastic waste a year, and more than a third of it winds up in the ocean.

Credit Michael Coghlan / Flickr

The government has a goal of reducing plastic use by 70 percent over the next seven years.

Advocacy groups say one of the reasons for so much plastic pollution in Indonesia is the government’s lack of investment in water pipes — which has led to overdependence on water supplied in plastic bottles.