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This Man Recovered More than 60 Dead Whales in the Philippines in the Last 10 Years

And the problem is more alarming than it seems.
IMAGE Darrel Blatchley
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American marine biologist Darrel Blatchley has spent the last 10 years pulling trash out of dead whales' carcasses in the Philippines. “I have recovered 64 whales in the Philippines in the last 10 years. Fifty-eight died due to humans. Forty-eight due to plastic,” said Blatchley. "Of 64 whales and dolphins, 58 died due to humans. That would be fishing nets, dynamite fishing, and plastic ingestion. Forty-eight of the 58 died due to plastic ingestion. Four were pregnant."

Photo by Darrel Blatchley.
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The increasing frequency of beached whales in the Philippines is a cause for alarm, especially considering that the majority of these deaths are caused by plastic. Sadly, most of his recoveries never made it to national news. This week, another dead whale fresh off the coast of Davao became part of that statistic. According to Blatchley, it is the fourth pygmy sperm whale he has recovered in Davao Gulf this year.

Based on the results of the necropsy done on the whale, Blatchley suspects that the whale died of internal damage caused by an earthquake, dynamite fishing, or ship sonar. Although no plastic was found in its stomach, the foam on the whale’s blowhole and in its lungs indicated that it drowned and suffered severe exhaustion and stress. Fishing activities are often blamed for disrupting and damaging marine life, and the pygmy sperm whale is just one possible victim.

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Plastic pollution is the leading threat to marine life.

The Philippines has one of the longest coastlines in the world, and is also one of the leading ocean polluters in the world after China and Indonesia. The 64 dead whales he has recovered in the last 10 years all came from Davao Gulf, and represent a tiny fraction of the massive impact that the country has on the world’s marine life. Blatchley is one of a handful of marine biologists actively trying to educate people about the dangers of plastic pollution in our oceans. “That is just a very high figure, and it’s really because of the lack of education and discipline of people,” said Blatchley.

Photo by Darrel Blatchley.
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In 2012, Blatchley decided to put up D' Bone Collector Museum in Davao City. It has over 6,500 specimens in its collection. “I collect assemble and display the animals at the museum but also help educate the public on the importance of environmental education and protection,” he said. One of the things that pushed him to establish the museum was the limited collection of animal bones in many of the Philippines' natural history museums, so he decided to share his bone collection with the public through his own museum.

UNESCO awarded Blatchley's museum with first prize recognition.

This year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched the Plastic Initiative Award, a campaign that recognizes a project or organization that promotes plastic environmental education awareness. Only two entries were selected. Blatchley’s D' Bone Collector Museum, the Philippines’ entry to the competition, won first prize among hundreds of entries from Asia. The other winner was a plastic ban advocacy from Bhutan, which won second place.

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“The Philippines is such an amazing country. But if we really want to change, it should start with every individual,” said Blatchley. “The nation should start to place its pride in discipline and cleanliness. Everything starts with discipline, but sadly, there are many undisciplined people who do not care about the environment.”

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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