Mysticeti and plastic debris (fwd)

From: Pita Admininstrator (
Date: Fri Jul 19 2002 - 14:11:18 EDT

Subject: Re: Mysticeti and plastic debris (fwd)

We had a harbour porpoise in eastern Canada a couple years ago with
plastic in the stomach. This animal was emaciated, was probably not yet
weaned, and had ingested unusual prey (three-spined stickleback). We
suggested that the plastic ingestion was a result of pre-weaning
separation from its mother, and the animal was ingesting various
inappropriate items. This was published as a note:

Baird, R.W., and S.K. Hooker. 2000. Ingestion of plastic and unusual prey
by a juvenile harbour porpoise. Marine Pollution Bulletin 40:719-720.

A PDF copy of the in press version is available for download from my web
site at Dalhousie.



On Tue, 16 Jul 2002, Nick Tregenza wrote:

> Thanks for that observation, Dan.
> It's a new idea to me - plastic in the stomach as a symptom of extreme
> hunger rather than as a purely incidental long term burden or even the cause
> of starvation. How could you test the three hypotheses?
> Can you tell how long the plastic has been in the stomach? Maybe the the
> print fades in an acid environment?
> What species are prone to accumulate plastic?
> Do heavy plastic burdens correlate with emaciation of known cause - like the
> morbillivirus encephalitis?
> Any observations welcome!
> Nick Tregenza
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dan Kerem <dankerem@RESEARCH.HAIFA.AC.IL>
> Date: 16 July 2002 09:42
> Subject: Re: Mysticeti and plastic debris (fwd)
> >Shalom all,
> >
> >We had occasion last night to PM a young male Ziphius (4.2 m long) which
> >stranded alive and died within minutes of reaching the beach. It was very
> >emaciated (all vertebral tips showing) and its stomach contained a total of
> >4.5 Kg of plastic debris with few interspaced cephalopod beaks. It may be
> >common practice for weak and hungry animals to seek to fill their stomach
> >with easily accessible floating objects, although I am not sure what they
> >did it with prior to the plastic age (algea?).
> >Incidently, does anyone know at what age/length do the teeth erupt in a
> >male Ziphius? This one had no signs of teeth.
> >
> >Kind Regards,
> >
> >Dan

Robin W. Baird, Ph.D.
Post-doctoral Fellow, Biology Department, Dalhousie University
Cetacean and Sea Turtle Team, NMFS, NOAA Beaufort Lab
101 Pivers Island Road, Beaufort, NC 28516 USA
Phone: 252-728-8601
Fax: 252-728-8784
e-mail: or

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