Dec 2 - Plastic Pollution Threatens Whales, Marine Mammals

Imagine something as large and imposing as a sperm whale being brought down by something as small and flimsy as a disposable plastic grocery bag. Sadly, it happens. And it is starting to happen more frequently.

A recent story in recounts the deaths of two sperm whales, both found with plastic marine pollution, including multiple plastic grocery bags, in their stomachs. They aren’t the only ones at risk.


Marine animals cannot tell the difference between their favorite food sources and human-made trash that resembles their food. When marine animals ingest or get caught in human debris, it is almost inevitably fatal. They cannot digest the trash or get rid of it, so they often end up getting sick or being unable to eat or swim, which eventually leads to their death. Sperm whales and beaked whales are especially susceptible to swallowing plastic and fishing gear because it resembles their natural prey, squid, the same way a sea turtle is susceptible to swallowing plastic bags because they resemble jelly fish.

At a recent coastal clean up day in California, plastic bags were one of the top four items picked up. That’s not surprising considering over 13 billion were produced in California last year.

But communities, concerned about both the environment and impacts to taxpayers, aren’t waiting around for someone else to act. Nearly 90 communities have already passed local ordinances restricting the distribution of disposable plastic grocery bags. And the list just keeps growing.

Is your community on the list? If not, check out our bag ban tool kit and get started today!

Photo credit: NOAA

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