Large amounts of marine debris found in sperm whales stranded along the North Sea coast in early 2016

Bianca Unger, Elisa Bravo Rebolledo, Rob Deaville, Andrea Gröne, Lonneke L. IJsseldijk, Mardik F. Leopold, Ursula Siebert, Jérôme Spitz, Peter Wohlsein, Helena Herr*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


30 sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) stranded along the coasts of the North Sea between January and February 2016. The gastro-intestinal tracts of 22 of the carcasses were investigated. Marine debris including netting, ropes, foils, packaging material and a part of a car were found in nine of the 22 individuals. Here we provide details about the findings and consequences for the animals. While none of the items was responsible for the death of the animal, the findings demonstrate the high level of exposure to marine debris and associated risks for large predators, such as the sperm whale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-141
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2016



  • Anthropogenic impact
  • Fishing related debris
  • Marine debris ingestion
  • Pathological findings
  • Physeter macrocephalus
  • Plastics

Cite this