Wakatobi district, a picturesque collection of four main islands surrounded by a marine reserve, has urged Indonesia's central government to help tackle the problem of marine debris.
"Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts that we see are truly bad", Dwi Suprapti, a marine species conservation co-ordinator at WWF Indonesia, told the Associated Press.
Rescuers found the rotting carcass of the 31-foot male sperm whale on Monday near Kapota waters in the Southeast Sulawesi province, according to Wakatobi National Park chief Heri Santoso.
A sperm whale has been found dead, washed ashore with more than 1000 pieces of plastic in its stomach.
A man collects plastic items from a whale's belly in this picture obtained from social media.
Park officials found bags, plastic bottles, sandals and 115 plastic cups in the whale's stomach, as well as a sack containing more than 1,000 pieces of string.
It is not clear whether the plastic what what eventually killed the whale, but the discovery nonetheless presents a stark example of the reality of ocean plastic pollution.
Dead whale had 1,000 pieces of plastic in its stomach. Credit WWF Indonesia
Almost half of the three million tons of mismanaged plastic waste produced in the country each year ends up in the ocean.
Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia's coordinating minister for maritime affairs, told the AP that he sees plastic waste as a "common enemy".
Around the world, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste gets dumped in our seas every year, causing countless marine animals to suffer from either becoming entangled in the material or ingesting it, which leads to suffocation or starvation.
"I think the ultimate solution is people have to use less plastic", he said, adding that it's up to government to come up with policies that change consumer behaviour on a large scale. They can get trapped in plastic waste as well.
During an autopsy veterinarians found more than 80 plastic bags in the whale's stomach.
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