A necropsy of a female dolphin found stranded on Florida’s Fort Myers Beach revealed plastic bags and a piece of balloon in her stomach.
The rough-toothed dolphin had washed up on shore Tuesday, according to local news station WFLA.
Rescue workers had initially tried to save the young animal, but she was emaciated and in such poor health that wildlife officials decided that euthanizing her was the best course of action, The Associated Press reported.
On Friday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission posted photos of the dolphin’s stomach contents, showing she had eaten two plastic bags along with a piece of a balloon.
While officials noted the stomach contents were a “significant finding,” they said that it was as of yet unclear what specifically caused the dolphin’s illness and stranding.
“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 FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute wrote, adding that the necropsy’s findings were still being analyzed.
Even so, the post said the presence of the bags and balloon “highlights the need to reduce single use plastic and to not release balloons into the environment.”
Reports of marine mammals found stranded with plastic in their stomachs are becoming alarmingly common.
In March, a pregnant sperm whale washed up dead off the coast of Italy with 49 pounds of plastic in her stomach, including garbage bags, fishing nets and lines and a bag of washing machine liquid. The same month, a beached whale found dead on the shores of the Philippines had 88 pounds of plastic in its stomach, including many plastic bags. And in November last year, a dead sperm whale that washed up in a national park in Indonesia had 13 pounds of plastic trash in its stomach, including flip-flops, dozens of bags and more than 100 cups.