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Dolphin Dies With Bellyfull Of Plastic As Lawmakers Move To Pre-Empt Plastics Ban

This is the plastic trash found inside a stranded dolphin's stomach off Fort Myers Beach this past weekend.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The death of a baby dolphin over the weekend off Fort Myers Beach may have been caused by plastic that filled its stomach. The news comes at the same time moves by cities to ban single-use plastics may be killed by state lawmakers.

Several cities - including St. Petersburg - have banned plastic straws designed for one use, as they frequently end up in the ocean.

But a bill that would "preempt" cities and counties from banning plastics passed the state House earlier this week and the Senate Tuesday, and is headed to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Jennifer Rubiello is state director of Environment Florida.

“Nothing we use for a few minutes--like single-use plastic straws--should threaten our oceans and wildlife for hundreds of years," she said. "Yet once again, the state legislature is making it harder for local communities to reduce plastics pollution while providing no alternative solution."

Christian Leon is co-chair of the , which includes 17 organizations. He said they'll continue to preach against single-use plastics.

"So we've been working really hard to do this, to inform the different businesses about the importance of these bans. And one thing the business community in our area is very aware of is the tourist industry and its impact on our local economy. And I think this story really shows why this is important."

Those tourism dollars are another reason to ban plastics, Leon said.

"We have a lot of people here who come to enjoy our beaches, and obviously we're all aware of the dolphin tours and the dolphin watches," he said, "and no one wants to go see dead dolphins floating around or washing up on shore. So I think this kind of highlights the direct impact this can have on us."

About 20 Florida cities have straw bans, including Miami Beach, St. Petersburg and Fort Lauderdale.

The bill passed the Senate on a 24-15 vote Tuesday. It also requires a study of local straw bans that have already been enacted in Florida, including the information governments relied on to make their decisions.

Copyright 2019 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.