Thailand

Preventable marine deaths

At the very moment Thailand has begun to worry about massive imports of mostly dangerous foreign waste, the most dramatic proof possible exposes one of the country's most dangerous exports. Marine biologists on the weekend released details and highly disturbing photographs of the death last week of a pilot whale in the Gulf off Songkhla province. An autopsy by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) after the animal drifted ashore and died on the beach showed the cause of death. It either starved or strangled on more than 80 large plastic bags.

This is no longer a rare event. While the DMCR has provided photographic and written details on the whale's death, plastic is killing sea life at a disturbing rate. Thon Thamrongnawasawat, marine biologist and lecturer at Kasetsart University, estimates that an average of about one sea animal -- whales, turtles, dolphins and the like -- dies every day. Most, as with the whale, ingest so much plastic they are incapable of eating and digesting nourishment.

The case of the expired pilot whale last weekend also exposed another inconvenient truth. The popular campaign to limit or ban supermarket and department store plastic bags would not have helped. Before it died, experts and volunteers helped the whale regurgitate five bags. Another 80 were found in its stomach and intestinal tract. All were the large-sized, generally black bags commonly used by both households and commercial firms to bag large collections of garbage. No hand-sized "grocery bag" was recovered during the extensive autopsy, results of which have been posted on social media.

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