A juvenile sperm whale washed ashore this week in Italy, where it was was discovered to have a stomach full of plastic waste.
Giorgia Monti, Greenpeace Italy's campaign manager, said in a statement that it was unclear if the plastic had been the primary cause of the whale's death but added that it could not be ignored as a factor.
"There are five sperm whales beached in the last five months on the Italian coasts," she said, according to a translation. "In the stomach of the pregnant female found in March in Sardinia, even 22 kilograms of plastic were found. The sea is sending us a cry of alarm, a desperate SOS. We must intervene immediately to save the wonderful creatures that inhabit it."
"The investigations have just begun and we do not yet know if he has died for this, but we cannot certainly pretend that nothing is happening," Monti continued.
Whales have washed up around the world with stomachs full of plastic in recent months. In the Philippines, a whale with nearly 90 pounds of plastic in its stomach washed ashore in March.
"I was not prepared for the amount of plastic. 40 kilos [88 pounds] roughly of rice sacks, grocery bags, banana plantation bags, and general plastic bags," one scientist said at the time of the discovery. "Sixteen rice sacks total. It was so big, the plastic was beginning calcification."
Governments across the world and some businesses have reacted in response to such reports with efforts to limit or ban single-use plastics such as straws, lids and utensils.