Blue whales consume around 10 million pieces of microplastic daily, a new study found. Tiny pieces of plastic have been discovered everywhere, from oceans to mountains.
A new study led by American researchers and published in Nature Communications has estimated how much plastic is consumed by blue, fin and humpback whales.
Researchers put tags on 191 whales living off the California coast to observe their behaviour. “It’s basically like an Apple Watch, just on the back of a whale,” Shirel Kahane-Rapport, a researcher at California State University, said.
The whales mostly ate at an underwater depth of 50 to 250 meters, home to the “greatest concentration of microplastics in the water column,” Kahane-Rapport told news agency AFP.
The researchers calculated the size and number of feedings the whales had daily, and with that data, they created three different scenarios.
The most likely scenario is that the blue whales ate around 10 million microplastic pieces daily. Humpback whales were believed to eat around four million pieces a day.
The largest animal to live on Earth -blue whales can grow up to 30 meters and weigh around 180,000 kilograms- is probably also the biggest consumer of microplastic, swallowing up to 43.6 kilograms a day, the study said.
“Imagine carrying around an extra 45 kilogrammes — yes, you’re a very big whale, but that will take up space,” Kahane-Rapport said.
The researchers found that most microplastics entering the whales were already inside the krill they eat, which is alarming because the fishes eaten by humans, like salmon, also feed on krill, Kahane-Rapport said.