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In search of a cause for whale's death in East Java

In search of a cause for whale's death in East Java

An 11-meter-long whale was found dead after it was washed ashore on the Bambang Beach of Lumajang District, East Java Province, on Thursday (July 11, 2019). (Police of Lumajang District)

An 11-meter-long whale was found dead after it was washed ashore on the Bambang Beach of Lumajang District, East Java Province, on Thursday.

The ill-fated whale carcass was first found by Siyo, a resident of Rekesan Hamlet in Bago Village, Pasirian Subdistrict, Lumajang District, while he was on his way to his rice field near the Bambang Beach area.

"From the distance, I saw something big and stinky. After approaching it, I know it was a whale carcass," Siyo said. He then reported it to the head of Rekesan Hamlet and the Pasirian police chief. Along with some personnel of the village's security unit, the local policemen buried the carcass.

The burial was necessary as the animal was foul-smelling, Pasirian Subdistrict Police Chief Inspector, Agus Sugiarto, said, adding that he was unsure about what type of whale it was.

Regarding the death of the whale, Chief of Lumajang District's Police Precinct Adjunct, Senior Commissioner Muhammad Arsal Sahban, speculated that the mammal could have died in the sea before its carcass was washed ashore.

Sahban said marine pollution could likely have triggered its death but that his men would still investigate the case.

"We are going to probe the death of the whale to find out the exact cause," he added.

Last year, Indonesia had been in the spotlight of the mainstream media in the country and abroad after a sperm whale was found dead with 5.9 kilograms of plastic waste in its stomach.

The ill-fated sperm whale was found washed ashore in the marine national park of Wakatobi, Southeast Sulawesi Province, on November 19, 2018.

The death of the ill-fated sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) was widely published and broadcast by reputable international news media, including the Associated Press, CNN, BBC, ABC, The Guardian, and National Geographic.

Washed ashore Kapota isle, Wakatobi District, Southeast Sulawesi Province, this dead marine mammal has only added to the number of whales that died this year after ingesting plastic waste.

In February 2018, for instance, a 10-meter-long sperm whale was also found dead on a beach at Cabo de Palos in Murcia, Spain, with 29 kg of plastic, including "plastic bags, fragments of nets and ropes, and a jerry can" in its stomach (Independent, 2018).

Then, in June, a male pilot whale also died in southern Thailand after ingesting more than 80 plastic bags (The Guardian, 2018).

Despite the fact that the deaths of whales, caused by marine debris, are indeed a global phenomenon, the 9.5-meter-long sperm whale found dead with almost six kilograms of plastic waste in its stomach has spelled doom for Indonesia.

It signals alarm bells because the marine debris in this archipelagic country's waters has seriously threatened the existence of its marine life as observed from the case of the recent death of the sperm whale.

In fact, Indonesia is not just home to sperm whales but also to many other marine species, including sea turtles. Six of the seven living species of sea turtles that scientists recognize are found in the country.

Chief of Lumajang District's Police Precinct Adjunct, Senior Commissioner Muhammad Arsal Sahban's, concern that the whale's death may be triggered by marine pollution and his decision to investigate the case is understandable because Indonesia is currently challenged by a serious problem of marine debris.

As the world's largest archipelagic state situated between two oceans, Indonesia is viewed by the Indonesian Foreign Ministry's Director General for ASEAN Cooperation, Jose Tavares, as a "meeting point" for the movement of trans-border pollutants.

By considering the seriousness of the impact of the marine debris, President Joko Widodo and his counterparts from Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos had pledged to combat marine debris at the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand.

These ASEAN leaders agreed to respond to this crucial issue by adopting the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in the South-East Asian region on June 22.

The Indonesian authorities need to ensure that this latest whale death in East Java has nothing to do with marine pollution through a thorough examination because the tragedy of the sperm whale that died from consuming plastic waste in the Wakatobi national park still remains alive in the minds of so many Indonesians.

EDITED BY INE
 

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