A baby turtle washed up onto the Florida coastline in the United States and died after consuming 104 pieces of plastic while swimming in the ocean, Today reported on Wednesday. Whitney Crowder, a sea turtle rehabilitation coordinator for Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, Florida, posted a photo of the deceased turtle on Facebook, which went viral.

“They eat little crustaceans that live in the floating seaweed, and they also eat algae in plant life, and these little pieces of plastic are just kind of floating, mixed in the seaweed, and by default, they’re eating the plastic,” Crowder told Today. “I think they’re just trying to eat to survive and not realising that they’re eating something harmful.”

Crowder said in the Facebook post that all turtles who die on the coastline have plastic in their intestines. “It’s washback season at Gumbo Limbo and weak, tiny turtles are washing up along the coastline needing our help,” Crowder said. “Unfortunately, not every washback survives. 100% of our washbacks that didn’t make it had plastic in their intestinal tracts. This turtle, which would fit in the palm of your hand, had eaten 104 pieces of plastic.”

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, founded in 1984, works to help baby turtles during washback season. But dozens or turtles have died this season alone, Today reported.

Emily Mirowski, a sea turtle rehabilitation assistant at the centre, told CNN she found the turtle weak and emaciated before it died. After its death, Mirowski dissected it and found that its stomach was full of plastic, ranging from balloons to bottle labels. “It was really heartbreaking,” she said. “But it’s something we’ve seen for several years and we’re just glad people are finally seeing this image and hopefully it’s raising awareness.”

“I’ve been here since 2012 and every turtle that I’ve performed a necropsy on has had plastic of some sort,” Crowder told Today. “It’s devastating. You feel hopeless.”

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