Researchers have found approximately 100 kilograms of marine debris — including plastic waste — inside a dead sperm whale found beached in Scotland.
The Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme said researchers performed an autopsy on the young whale at the weekend after it stranded itself and died on a beach on the island of Harris in the Western Isles last week.
In a post to their Facebook page, the researchers described the "huge ball" of netting, rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and plastic tubing inside the sperm whale's stomach as "shameful" and "horrific".
They said although it was plausible the amount of debris inside the whale played a role in its live stranding, they did not find evidence the waste had obstructed the whale's intestines.
"This amount of plastic in the stomach is nonetheless horrific, must have compromised digestion, and serves to demonstrate, yet again, the hazards that marine litter and lost or discarded fishing gear can cause to marine life," the post reads.
"It is also perhaps a good example that this is a global issue caused by a whole host of human activities.
"This whale had debris in its stomach which seemed to have originated from both the land and fishing sectors, and could have been swallowed at any point between Norway and the Azores.
"We are looking in more detail to see if we can work out quite why this animal ended up with so much of it in its stomach."
Local resident Dan Parry told the BBC the sight of fishing nets and debris being taken out of its stomach was "desperately sad".
"We walk on these beaches nearly every day and I always take a bag to pick up litter, most of which is fishing-related," he said.
"This stuff could have easily been netting or the like lost in a storm, we just don't know, but it does show the scale of the problem we have with marine pollution."
Due to the difficulties of transporting the carcass, the whale was buried at the beach.