FORT MYERS, Fla. (FOX 13) - Eight million metric tons of plastic wind up in the ocean each year and marine life are becoming desperate for humans to clean up their acts.
It was too late for a young dolphin found stranded and emaciated last week in Fort Myers.
The animal was in such bad shape, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists who responded had to make a tough decision to humanely euthanize it.
A necropsy was performed and scientists found the dolphin was filled with plastics, including two plastic bags and a balloon.
"When an animal ingests something, it's a foreign body. It's just like us ingesting something, we don't have the means to break it down appropriately," said Kerry Sanchez with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Sanchez did not work on this particular incident but has come across it time and time again.
"The balloon is a really great means of celebrating something, but we can use so many more options to celebrate, like crepe paper or recycling newspaper into making party decorations and things like that," she said.
Plastic waste in the water doesn't just affect dolphins, but all marine life, as well as birds and terrestrial animals.
"If you look in the water, it could be very confusing -- even for us -- to see a plastic bag floating," said Sanchez. "We could potentially confuse that with an animal."
This incident further highlights the need to keep trash out of these animals homes.
"Doing just small things every day, I think is a big change," said Sanchez. "If that's eliminating straws or eliminating single-use bags -- something like that -- just really embracing that reduce, reuse, recycle when possible, switching to a more sustainable practice."
Balloon releases are actually illegal in Florida. You can be fined $250 if you're caught doing it. The law has been around since 1989.