Wildlife

Dead Whale Washes Ashore with Shocking 88 lbs. of Plastic in Its Stomach

A young Cuvier’s beaked whale washed up dead on a beach in Compostela Valley in the Philippines, its stomach filled with 88 pounds (40 kilograms) of plastic bags.

Workers from the D’Bone Collector Museum Inc. in Davao City in the Philippines recovered the whale — a male — on Saturday (March 16) and later performed a necropsy. They found its stomach was packed with plastic bags — 16 rice sacks, four banana-plantation-style bags and some shopping bags. His stomach “had the most plastic we have ever seen in a whale”.

This isn’t the first time a whale full of plastic has washed ashore. A dead sperm whale washed up in Indonesia last November with 100 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags and even a couple of flip-flops inside its stomach. The Cuvier’s whale in the Philippines held seven times more plastic than that sperm whale

Around 8.8 million tons (8 million metric tons) of plastic get dumped into the ocean every year, according to a 2015 report by the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy. In particular, about 60 percent of it comes from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Environment

Marine Areas Around The World Where Plastic Is Piling Up

World map showing marine areas where plastic rubbish and microplastics are collected by ocean currents.

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Environment

Black Snow Is Falling from the Skies in Siberia

A pall of eerie black snow has covered several towns in the Siberian region of Kuzbass, which is home to 2.6 million people and one of the world’s largest coal fields.

According to the Guardian and the Siberian Times, the snow is tainted with toxic black coal dust that was released into the air from open coal pits and improperly maintained factories in the region. One coal plant official told the local media that a shield meant to prevent coal powder from escaping out of the factory had malfunctioned — however, toxic black snowfall seems to be a regular phenomena in the area and it isn’t necessarily tied to a single source.

Kuzbass (short for Kuznetsk Basin) is one of the largest coalfields in the world, spanning more than 10,000 square miles (26,000 square kilometers). A 2015 report from Ecodefense found that the citizens of Kuzbass have an average life expectancy 3 to 4 years shorter than the Russian national average and have nearly twice the risk of contracting tuberculosis and childhood mental disorders.

Black snows like this one are a frequent winter feature in the region, the report found, and mitigation attempts have been… lacking. For instance, in December 2018, regional authorities were accused of trying to hide the toxic black stuff by literally painting over it with white pigment.

Environment

Plastic Pollution

Microplastics proliferating in the world’s oceans appear to also be carrying a host of bacteria, some so toxic that they can cause coral bleaching in tropical waters and even bring infections to humans with open wounds. Bacteria known to cause gastroenteritis were also found.

Researchers from the National University of Singapore sampled plastic debris in the waters around the city-state. They found that among the bacteria hitching rides on the microplastics were some useful organisms, such as those that can break down pollutants in the water.

But lead researcher Sandric Leong cautioned that since marine life are eating the plastic, the accompanying pathogens could be passing up the food chain.

Environment

Plastic Meals

Researchers say microplastics were in the guts of every marine animal they examined that had washed up on the coast of Britain, including dolphins, seals and whales.

A team from the University of Exeter and Plymouth Marine Laboratory says most of the particles found in 50 animals from 10 different species were synthetic fibers, which can come from fishing nets, toothbrushes and clothing. They believe the rest came from sources such as food packaging and plastic bottles.

While it’s thought the plastic would eventually pass through the digestive systems or be regurgitated, the scientists say they “don’t yet know what effects the microplastics, or the chemicals on and in them, might have on marine mammals.”

Environment

Desalination Brine

The nearly 16,000 desalination plants around the world that extract fresh water from the sea are discharging far greater amounts of toxic brine back into the ocean than previously thought, a new U.N. study reveals.

It says the salt-laden liquid is increasing the density of salinity where it is released, and poses a significant risk to marine life and ecosystems.

More than half of the 5 billion cubic feet of brine discharged each day worldwide comes from desalination plants operating in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait.

Magnetic North Pole Shift

The erratic and rapid shift of the Magnetic North Pole since 2014 has prompted scientists to update a year earlier than scheduled a model used in crucial navigation systems.

The unprecedented update was requested by the U.S. military due to the mounting level of inaccuracies in guidance across the Arctic for ships, planes and submarines.

Scientists believe the wayward pole is being influenced by changes in the flow of iron in Earth’s outer core.

But some experts believe the planet’s magnetic poles are on the verge of reversing, which is long overdue.

Environment

Garbage Patch Cleanup Setback

A giant U-shaped floating barrier designed to corral debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been broken apart by the constant wind and waves of the North Pacific winter.

The prototype was towed to the patch between Hawaii and California last September, and early reports said it was moving slower than the plastic, allowing the trash to escape.

“This is an entirely new category of machine that is out there in extremely challenging conditions,” said the device’s 24-year-old inventor, Boyan Slat.

He said his Ocean Cleanup project will tow the broken device to Hawaii for examination, and it may need to be brought back to the project’s headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area for full repairs.

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Environment

Roach Recyclers

Food waste from China’s expanding cities has become such a problem that firms are being encouraged to set up urban waste farms that use countless cockroaches to devour the scraps.

Reuters reports that one facility on the outskirts of Jinan, capital of Shandong province, feeds food waste the equivalent in weight to seven adult elephants each day to a billion captive roaches. The bugs have the potential to provide nutrition for livestock once they die, and some say their dead bodies could also be used to cure stomach ailments and create beauty products.

Wildlife

Pollution!

A dead sperm whale had more than 100 plastic cups, plastic bags, flip flops and other pieces of plastic in its stomach when it was found rotting on a beach in Indonesia.

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Wildlife

Profound Effects of Pesticides on Bees

Whether it’s foraging for food, caring for the young, using their bodies to generate heat or to fan the nest, or building and repairing nests, a bee colony does just about everything as a single unit.

While recent studies have suggested exposure to pesticides could have impacts on foraging behavior, a new study, led by James Crall, has shown that those effects may be just the tip of the iceberg.

The new study that shows exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides — the most commonly-used class of pesticides in agriculture — has profound effects on a host of social behaviors.

Using an innovative robotic platform to observe bees’ behavior, the study authors showed that, following exposure to the pesticide, bees spent less time nursing larvae and were less social that other bees. Additional tests showed that exposure impaired bees ability to warm the nest, and to build insulating wax caps around the colony. The study is described in a November 9 paper in Science.

Environment

Pharma Pollution

Australian researchers say more than 60 common prescription drugs are finding their way through wastewater into rivers and streams, contaminating insects that wind up being eaten by other wildlife up the food chains.

The scientists at Monash University found 69 medications in insects collected in waters around Melbourne, including painkillers, antibiotics, antidepressants and blood pressure treatments.

They say that while the highest levels of contamination were found near wastewater treatment plants, low levels were also detected in insects from more pristine areas.

Environment

Air Pollution

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that air pollution has become so acute that the simple act of breathing is killing 7 million people annually worldwide while also harming billions of others.

“The world has turned the corner on tobacco. Now it must do the same for the ‘new tobacco’ – the toxic air that billions breathe every day,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The U.N. agency estimates that 91 percent of the world’s population now lives in areas with air pollution above WHO limits.

It says children and babies are the most vulnerable to the toxic effects of air pollution.

Wildlife

Maritime Noise Pollution

Underwater noise created by shipping and recreational boats is making it more difficult for dolphins to talk to each other, according to a new study.

University of Maryland researchers say the complex whistle calls used by the marine mammals are becoming simplified to make sure they can be understood through the din of maritime traffic.

“It’s kind of like trying to answer a question in a noisy bar and after repeated attempts to be heard, you just give the shortest answer possible,” said marine biologist Helen Bailey. She and colleagues made the discovery by analyzing recordings from microphones on the bottom of the Atlantic.

An earlier Japanese study found that humpback whales stop singing or reduce their songs when near loud noise from passing ships.

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Mass Extinction

Earth’s wild animal population has plunged 60 percent since 1970, and the rate of extinction is now 100 to 1,000 times higher due to pressure from human activities, a new report warns.

The World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) latest Living Planet Index says the global biodiversity needs “life support,” and called on heads of state to step up and fight for the planet.

The group says tackling climate change by advancing renewable energy and boosting environmentally friendly food production would begin taking the pressure off the world’s wildlife.

Environment

Erratic Jet Stream

The jet stream, the ribbon of wind that circles the Earth is contorting into extreme loops sharply towards the poles with ridges of high pressure and dips to the equator with low pressure.

The resultant calamity list includes wildfires across Scandinavia, Greece and California, record heat in Texas, Japan and Africa and flooding rains along the U.S. East Coast that could last another week. The world is hotter in general, which means when temperatures spike, they do so off a higher baseline.

Plastic Pollution in the Dominican Republic

Large waves of plastic pollution washed onto the coast of the Dominican Republic, prompting officials to dispatch more than 500 workers to remove the debris from a beach in the capital of Santo Domingo.

More than 1,000 tons of plastic waste, including bottles and foam takeout boxes mixed with seaweed, were hauled away. The debris was said to have washed onto the beach from a nearby polluted river.

Parley for the Oceans, a group working to reduce plastic waste in the world’s oceans, says the phenomenon occurs in many developing nations with a coastline.

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Environment

High Garbage Dump

Mount Everest has a mountain of a problem: trash. And not just leftover camping meals, beer and fuel cans, but human waste, too. Climbers traveling to the bottom of the majestic mountain for the first time might be surprised to find half-buried fluorescent tents, fuel bottles and other miscellaneous pieces of old camp sites strewn about the base camps. The various lodges and villages in surrounding areas have also created dozens of landfills surrounding the base of the mountain.

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