Almost ten percent of whales, dolphins, and porpoises examined as part of a new Irish study were found to have plastics in their digestive tracts. The study published in Environmental Pollution found that 8.5 percent (45 individuals) of Irish cetaceans tested had marine debris in their stomachs and intestines.
Deep-diving offshore species such as True’s and Cuvier’s beaked whales ingested more plastics than individuals from coastal or pelagic species. Data compiled from 1990-2015 on cetacean stranding and bycatch in Ireland was analysed in the study, with post-mortem examinations carried out on 528 digestive tracts from 11 species. If the study had only examined stranded cetaceans, the information may have been seen to be biased as these individuals could have been sick and therefore more likely to ingest marine debris. Plastic bags, ice cream wrappers, fishing hooks and even shotgun cartridges were also recorded in the post-mortem examinations. Global plastic production has increased 190-fold between 1950 and 2015 and it is thought that plastics in the ocean will outweigh fish by 2050.