A whale that was stranded on the Isle of Skye will feature in a Sky Atlantic documentary.
The documentary, A Plastic Whale, will focus on the effects of plastic on ocean wildlife and will include unique footage of the Cuvier's beaked whale that was stranded on the island in 2015.
Dr Andrew Brownlow, a veterinary pathologist for SMASS, said four kilograms of plastic bags and sheeting had filled the whale's stomach, twisted into its intestine and completely blocked its digestive system.
There were black bin liners, carrier bags and zipped freezer bags. This significant amount had caused an impaction in the stomach, which extended into the duodenum and further down the intestine. It was euthanased on welfare grounds. A highly challenging necropsy, with the animal being largely submerged during most of the examination, was done by the SMASS team.
Although the presence of plastics is a well-recognised problem in the marine environment, plastic ingestion is a relatively uncommon finding in cetaceans. Within the UK strandings record (which has collated data from over 4000 necropsies) the Cuvier’s beaked whale from Skye is the only recorded case of macro plastic ingestion leading to mortality. The exact scale and extent to which plastic ingestion occurs in marine mammals is still unknown, making it challenging to quantify the issue and its impact on a population level.
The documentary will be broadcast on Wednesday 21 June at 9pm. More information can be found here.