A whale found in a canal in southern Thailand has died after eating more than 80 plastic bags, according to officials.
The small male pilot whale was barely alive when he was discovered on Monday in the southern province of Songkhla, Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources said. Rescuers attempted to nurse the whale back to health, but he died on Friday after spitting up five plastic bags.
An autopsy revealed over 17 pounds of plastic, including more than 80 plastic bags, in the whale’s stomach.
Jatuporn Buruspat, director-general of the marine and coastal resources department, told Reuters that the whale likely thought the floating plastic bags were food.
Thailand is one of the largest plastic polluters in the world, dumping over 1 million tons of garbage into the sea annually, according to the country’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
The ministry announced in September that it was focused on developing a better way to deal with the massive amounts of waste produced by Thailand each year.
At least 300 marine animals, including whales, dolphins and sea turtles, die in Thai waters annually from ingesting plastic, Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biologist and lecturer at Kasetsart University, told The Guardian.
“It’s a huge problem,” he said. “We use a lot of plastic.”