Newsflash Podcast | Marine Debris found in 8.5% of Whales & Dolphins

What happened?

A new Irish study found that 8.5% of whales, dolphins and porpoises examined had marine debris in their digestive tracts.

The study published in Environmental Pollution was a collaboration between the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and University College Cork together with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

Pollution Podcast Special Marine Debris Whales Dolphins

(Credit Padraig Whooley / IWDG)

What the study found?

  • Plastic bags, ice cream wrappers, nylon rope and a shot gun shell were among some of the plastic items found in the digestive tracts of the cetaceans. 
  • Surprisingly the study found that deep-diving offshore species such as True’s and Cuvier’s beaked whales contained more plastics than coastal or pelagic individuals, especially plastic bags.
  • All the individuals tested revealed evidence of at least one type of microplastic.

What does this mean?

This is pretty troubling news showing the ubiquity of marine pollution and that nowhere is free from our waste problem. Since 1991 Irish waters have been a sanctuary for whales and dolphins and while the impact of micro-plastics on these creatures health is still unknown it can’t be good news for the them or other marine creatures.

Pollution Podcast Special Marine Debris Whales Dolphins

What are the broader implications?

If micro-plastics are showing up in all species of cetacean examined, what does this mean for marine life on the whole? Microbeads and continual build up of micro-plastics in the sea is posing a threat to marine life but what about the food we eat. Could plastics entering the food chain end up on our plates?

Listen to the podcast for more about this story.

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About the Author

Ann Robinson
Has a passion for coastal heritage and maritime history. Loves sharing the best of the Irish coast online. Contact me or follow me on Twitter @AnnRobinson22