THE massive whale which was found dead last week in Estepona may have died as a result of ingesting plastic, an expert has revealed.
The fin whale, weighing around 70 tonnes, and more than 12-metres long was found stranded last Thursday on the beach of La Rada, in the municipality of Estepona.
According to marine biologist and director of the Center for the Recovery of Marine Species (CREMA) of the Aula del Mar in Malaga, Jose Luis Mons, plastic may be ingested by whales mistakenly while feeding on prey, which can cause the death of these animals.
As explained by Mons, small and large pieces of plastic get trapped in baleen whales who filter-feed. To filter-feed, the whale first opens its mouth underwater to take in water. The whale then pushes the water out, animals such as krill are filtered by the baleen and remain as a food source for the whale. Unfortunately, the same happens with plastic, large pieces are not filtered out, rather mistakenly ingested too.
A problem which also affects turtles, who have to undergo emergency surgery when they ingest plastic, Mons explained.
Another common cause of death for marine life include oil spills and other chemical elements as well as getting tangled in fishing nets, although this does not seem to be the case for the whale beached in Estepona.
“Sometimes we also find young animals that have died simply because they have not been fed well or old animals that have died due to age,” Mons said.
However, CREMA is on alert, as the bodies of three dolphins have also recently washed up on the coast of the Malaga capital, and others in Torremolinos, Marbella and Nerja.
These events are being investigated to see if they are a coincidence and the result of ‘a big easterly storm’ or if there is another cause behind these deaths.