1. Data

Stranded dolphin in Florida had plastic bags, balloon in stomach

The female rough-toothed dolphin had to be euthanized after washing up on Fort Myers Beach.
Plastic discovered in the dolphin calf's stomach. [Florida Fish and Wildlife Comission]
Published Apr. 28
Updated Apr. 29

The autopsy of a stranded baby dolphin showed it had eaten a stomach-full of trash, including heaps of plastic and pieces of a balloon, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation said Saturday.

The rough-toothed dolphin was emaciated when it was discovered at Fort Myers Beach on Tuesday afternoon. Rescuers attempted to treat the mammal, but said she was in “such poor condition” they opted for euthanization, the Fort Myers News-Press reported.

A pair of rough toothed dolphins swimming in ocean. [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]

Related: Plastic pollution in Tampa Bay is bigger than straws. Here’s what local advocates are doing

Pictures posted to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation’s Facebook page on Friday show the piles of trash found inside the dolphin’s stomach.

Though the FWC says the official cause of death is yet to be determined, officials said marine mammals often “strand” due to sickness or injury.

“Although a significant finding, there are many additional factors to consider, such as underlying illness, disease and maternal separation, before a final cause of stranding and death for the dolphin can be determined,” the organization said in a statement. “Samples collected during necropsy will be sent for analysis to help with this determination.”

Officials went on to say the findings emphasize “the need to reduce single-use plastic and to not release balloons into the environment."

Both locally and on a national scale, cities and businesses have began efforts to limit — and sometimes outright ban — single-use plastics that pollute our oceans.

In St. Petersburg it was voted on last December that single-use plastic straws and styrofoam would be banned from the city’s businesses starting in 2020. Starbucks, meanwhile, announced last July that it plans to eliminate plastic straws in the U.S. by next year and globally by 2020, just months after Seattle — where the coffee giant is headquartered — became the first U.S. city to ban plastic straws, spoons, forks and knives.


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