Washed-up whale had 'more than 100kg' of litter in its stomach

A washed-up sperm whale had more than 100kg of litter in its stomach, a Scottish wildlife organisation has said.

The cetacean washed up on the shores of Harris - an island part of the Outer Hebrides famed for its white sand beaches.

The Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme said on its Facebook page the animal had "a whole range of plastic including sections of net, bundles of rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing" in its stomach.

It added: "All this material was in a huge ball in the stomach and some of it looked like it had been there for some time."

The charity said the find was "horrific" and demonstrates "the hazards that marine litter and lost or discarded fishing gear can cause to marine life".

It is now investigating why it had consumed so much sea junk.

A tangle of ropes was found deep inside the sperm whale. Credit: SMASS / Facebook

Photos posted by the organisation show a tangle of fishing net, ropes and other debris lodged inside the mammal.

Dolphin and whale strandings on Scottish shores are on the rise, figures reported by the organisation show.

Some 204 were reported in 2014, compared with 930 last year.

Research released at the start of this year showed every single marine mammal found washed up on Britain's shores had consumed plastic.

Scientists have shown concern that sonar systems used by underwater craft may be confusing the animals, sending them towards their death.

A net and rope found inside the washed up mammal. Credit: SMASS / Facebook

Sperm whales normally feed on squid, diving hundreds of metres below sea level to find their catch. They are able to hold their breath for up to 90 minutes during such dives.

In recent years there has been some concern over their numbers, with repeated calls to stop whaling to help them sustain a viable population.

Earlier this year a carcass of a humpback whale washed up on the Northumberland coast.

It was followed by another humpback finding itself trapped in the Thames estuary, the animal sadly later died.