Marine experts are warning the public about the dangers of water pollution after it was revealed that a single piece of improperly disposed of plastic may have contributed to the death of an endangered sei whale in Virginia last week.
Biologists from the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team had been following the female whale for days since she was first spotted swimming up the Elizabeth River, a tributary of Chesapeake Bay, far from the deep waters of the open ocean where her species is normally found. Biologists said that the animal appeared to be sick and disoriented, unable to find her way back out.
Sadly, after several days of traveling upstream, the whale was found dead - though likely not from natural causes. The team conducted a necropsy on the animal and discovered that she had swallowed a shard of plastic, part of a DVD case that might have been washed out to sea.
"This may have caused the lining of the stomach to be damaged and may have prevented the animal from feeding (since there was no evidence the whale had fed recently)," the aquarium said in a statement. "This may explain why it wandered into an unusual area like the Elizabeth River."