Late in February, a juvenile sperm whale washed up dead on a beach in southern Spain. It looked strangely thin, and, as is the norm in cases like this, researchers conducted an autopsy to find out what killed it. What they found was shocking: the whale’s stomach contained a staggering 64 pounds of plastic.
Sperm whales are protected in the United States under the Endangered Species Conservation Act and are listed as vulnerable. They’re an interesting creature—the females care for their calves for a decade at least, and they dive to depths of over 7,000 feet. The only other mammal that goes deeper is the Cuvier’s beaked whale. Sperm whales have enormous brains; bigger than any other mammal in the world and some five times bigger than ours. Of course, since we are humans, we hunted them mercilessly for lamp oil, candles, and perfume ingredients.