Animals Wildlife Dead Sperm Whales Discovered With Plastic Parts, Nets in Stomachs By Michael d'Estries Writer State University of New York at Geneseo Michael d’Estries has been writing about science, culture, space and sustainability since 2005. His writing has appeared on Business Insider, CNN, and Forbes. our editorial process Michael d'Estries Updated October 07, 2019 Researchers say the sperm whales, all juveniles, likely died of cardiovascular failure after eating plastic and entering shallow waters. (Photo: By riza azhari/Shutterstock) Share Twitter Pinterest Email Animals Wildlife Pets Animal Rights Endangered Species It's estimated that roughly 8 million metric tons of plastic enters the world's oceans each year — a tragic influx that is posing serious threats to marine life. Besides the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the most direct way to view the impact of all this garbage is to gaze into the stomachs of marine fish, whales and birds. Researchers studying 13 sperm whales that washed up on the coast of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany recently discovered this firsthand, with four of the mammals having very large quantities of plastic in their stomachs. Included in the sad inventory of items recovered was a 42-foot-long commercial fishing net, a 27-inch plastic cover for a car engine, and the jagged-edged remains of a plastic bucket. Absolutely tragic. "These findings show us the effects of our plastic society," Robert Habeck, the environment minister of Schleswig-Holstein, said in a statement. He added that marine animals inadvertently consume plastic, with many suffering the consequences, or worse, slowly dying. "Some starve with full stomachs," he said. The presence of plastic itself in the diets of marine life is sadly becoming more pervasive. A study published last year using 76 fish from Indonesian seafood markets and 64 from markets in California found roughly a quarter had either plastic fragments or textile fibers in their guts. As for the deceased sperm whales, while the four whales with plastic in their stomachs undoubtedly felt discomfort from the items, the researchers suspect the pod died of starvation after chasing food into shallow waters. Once trapped, the weight of their bodies pressed together blood vessels, lungs and other organs, leading to acute cardiovascular failure.