MANILA (AFP) - A starving whale with 40kg of plastic trash in its stomach has died after being washed ashore in the Philippines, activists said on Monday (March 18), calling it one of the worst cases of poisoning they have seen.
Environmental groups have tagged the Philippines as one of the world's biggest ocean polluters due to its reliance on single-use plastic.
That sort of pollution, which is also widespread in other South-east Asian nations, regularly kills wildlife like whales and turtles that ingest the waste.
In the latest case, a Cuvier's beaked whale died on Saturday (March 16) in the southern province of Compostela Valley where it was stranded a day earlier, the government's regional fisheries bureau said.
The agency and an environmental group performed a necropsy on the animal and found about 40kg of plastic, including grocery bags and rice sacks.
The animal died from starvation and was unable to eat because of the trash filling its stomach, said Darrell Blatchley, director of D' Bone Collector Museum Inc, which helped conduct the examination.
"It's very disgusting and heartbreaking," he told Agence France-Presse (AFP). "We've done necropsies on 61 dolphins and whales in the past 10 years and this is one of the biggest (amounts of plastic) we've seen."
The 4.7m long whale was stranded in Mabini town on Friday where local officials and fishermen tried to release it, only for the creature to return to shallow water, said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
"It could not swim on its own, emaciated and weak," regional bureau director Fatma Idris told AFP.
"(The) animal was dehydrated. On the second day it struggled and vomited blood."
The death comes just weeks after the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives released a report on the "shocking" amount of single-use plastic in the Philippines, including nearly 60 billion sachets a year.
The Philippines has strict laws on garbage disposal but environmentalists say these are poorly implemented.
The problem also plagues the archipelago's neighbours, with a sperm whale dying in Indonesia last year with nearly 6kg of plastic waste discovered in its stomach.
In Thailand, a whale also died last year after swallowing more than 80 plastic bags. A green turtle, a protected species, suffered the same fate there in 2018.