HONOLULU (KHON2) — Researchers said they were surprised and sad to have found a number of manufactured items inside the stomach of a sperm whale that washed up on Kauai.
The 56-foot-long whale was located on a reef fronting Lydgate Park on Friday, Jan. 27.
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Heavy equipment was used to bring the whale to the beach and researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa got to work — searching for clues about its death.
The researchers said they found at least six hagfish traps and seven types of fishing nets. In addition, there were two types of plastic bags, a light protector, a fishing line, a float from a net and the remains of prey animals.
“The size of the opening from the intestinal tract into the stomach is relatively small and there is certainly substantial enough volume of foreign objects to cause a blockage,” explained Health and Stranding Lab Director Dr. Kristi West. “The presence of undigested fish and squid lends further evidence of a blockage.”
However, due to the immense size of the 60-ton whale, researchers have yet to examine the full expanse of the whale’s stomach.
As they continue to search for the main cause of death, follow-up testing — including disease screening — will be done on samples of its different organ systems.
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“These man-made items persist in the ocean for a very long time, and we hope we can learn from this,” said Edward Kekoa, with the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources. “At an absolute minimum let’s prevent any more gear, plastic bags, and other items from getting into the system.”