Washed Up Whale Reveals Our Dirty Habits

A young 37-foot whale was found stranded on the shore in West Seattle, and it had a summary of what we’re doing to our oceans held within its stomach. As photographer Chris Jordan documented in birds’ guts, our marine animals are filling up not on nutritious sea life, but the junk we toss out that makes its way into the oceans. Fifty gallons of contents were examined from this near-adult male gray whale, and you won’t believe some of the garbage this poor beast had swallowed.

According to Cascadia Research Collective, 50 gallons of stomach contents were sorted through. Most of it was real food – algae and other bits common to a gray whale diet – but also included were more than 20 plastic bags, small towels, surgical gloves, sweat pants, plastic pieces, duct tape, and a golf ball.

If there were any doubt before, there is none now – the ocean has become a landfill. However, if there’s a bit of a silver lining, the trash made up just about two percent of the total contents, and it doesn’t seem to have been the cause of death. But what Cascadia Research points out, “It did clearly indicate that the whale had been attempting to feed in industrial waters and therefore exposed to debris and contaminants present on the bottom in these areas.”

Gray whales are bottom feeders and get their nutrition from the sediments in shallow waters. They filter small organisms as their food, but apparently they aren’t always able to filter out human pollution. Researchers are currently studying the whale to find out the cause of death, which could be anything from not getting enough food (three other whales that died in April during migration appeared emaciated and perhaps didn’t get enough to eat in Alaska last year) to pollution and chemicals in the water. The results won’t be known for several weeks.

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Related Articles:
Plastic, Plastic Everywhere: The 5 Gyres Project

The 5 Gyres: Update From the Sargasso Sea
How Many Marine Mammals Did Your Plastic Bag Kill Today?

By Jaymi Heimbuch, Treehugger


Tanja Z.
Tanja Zilker6 years ago

very sad

Kat Head
Katherine H6 years ago


Elaine A.
Past Member 7 years ago

This unfortunately is why these magnificent creatures end up beaching themselves, simply because so much waste product is allowed to be dumped into the ocean i.e. cruise ships, oil tankers and then the sonar effects of military testing in these waters all help in the disorientation of these animals as well as them becoming sick.

Zee Kallah
.7 years ago

All of this will pass. I don't know how but it will pass and be history. How will you, how will I feel about how we got through it.

Care2 members will know we did what we could.

Regretfully, others who could have done something but chose to play the ostrich will see what could have been?

I read a poem's lines when I was a teenager, don't remember the name of the poem but the words have haunted me through my years, "The saddest words of tongue or pen are the words, "It might have been."

I think we may regret the things we did not do more than the mistakes we made doing something!

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W7 years ago

very sad

Valerie G.
Val G7 years ago

OMG... When will we learned to do differently...?

K s Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Robert O.
Robert O7 years ago

Tragic is more like it.

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers7 years ago

Very sad .

Rosie Lopez
Rosie Lopez8 years ago

So sad!