Dead Whales On a Sullivan's Island Beach Remind Us That There’s No Such Place as “Away”

An exhausted pygmy whale and her calf had to be euthanized after they washed ashore near Charleston, South Carolina last week. The female whale couldn’t eat because there was a large black plastic trash bag lodged in her stomach.

This little wildlife tragedy played out in the breakers on Sullivan’s Island near Fort Moultrie, a component of Fort Sumter National Monument. The good people of Sullivan’s Island (some of whom I know personally) had worked frantically for several hours to push the whales back into deep water, but the two animals were beyond help.

The necropsy that revealed the fatal trash bag also revealed that this mother whale was so weakened by starvation that she couldn’t have survived much longer. The calf, which was still nursing, was doomed to die with its mother.

A spokesman for NOAA’s National Ocean Service said it’s likely that somebody dumped the offending trash bag off a boat. Whoever threw that trash bag overboard needs to be reminded that one can never truly throw anything away. Like the trash that litters the roadside, the killer trash bag in that mother whale's stomach attests that there’s no such place as “away.”