Ingestion of macroplastics by odontocetes of the Greek Seas, Eastern Mediterranean: Often deadly!
Plastic pollution is an omnipresent problem that threatens marine animals through ingestion and entanglement. Marine mammals are no exception to this rule but their interaction with plastic remains understudied in the Mediterranean Sea. Here we highlight this problem by analyzing the stomach contents of 34 individuals from seven odontocete species stranded in Greece. Macroplastic (>5 mm) were found in the stomachs of nine individuals from four species (harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena, Risso's dolphin Grampus griseus, Cuvier's beaked whale Ziphius cavirostrisand sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus) with the highest frequency of occurrence in sperm whales (60%). Gastric blockage from plastic was presumably lethal in three cases, with plastic bags being the most common finding (46%). Plastic ingestion is of particular conservation concern for the endangered Mediterranean sperm whales. A regular examination of stranded cetaceans with a standardised protocol is critical for allowing spatiotemporal comparisons within and across species.