GRAYTON BEACH  — A photographer hopes his images of a dead sea turtle snagged onto an artificial reef by a fishing net Friday will help raise awareness of marine endangerment.

Chandler Williams, owner of Modus Photography, said he was snorkeling among the Grayton Turtle Reef on Friday when he noticed the dead sea turtle tangled in the net. A wildlife photographer, Williams said he made the decision to video the "devastating sight" in hopes it will spark change and create a greater awareness.

"It is painful to see the mature sea turtle, probably 80 years plus, lifeless," Williams said. "To live all of those years and pass away like that, from a man-made fishing line, was devastating to me.

"As harmful and painful as the photographs are, to create awareness for locals and future generations was too big of an educational opportunity to pass up."

Andy McAlexander, president of the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA,) said although it's impossible to say exactly how the sea turtle died, he believes the turtle already had the fishing net attached to its body when it brushed against the reef and got caught.

The turtle likely drowned that morning.

McAlexander said the volunteer-based nonprofit constantly has divers visiting the reefs to remove debris. He encouraged the public visiting the reefs to also safely remove debris they spot as well.

"It's truly agonizing," McAlexander said. "No one wants to see a dead sea turtle. ... Whoever discarded that monofilament fishing line killed that turtle. It just breaks my heart."

The artificial reef was placed offshore about four years ago by SWARA as part of a county-wide project to build permitted, beach accessible artificial reefs in South Walton. McAlexander said the reefs were placed not only for the community's enjoyment, but for the health of environment by establishing shelter for marine life to thrive.

Williams said he does not want the community to get a negative light of the artificial reefs, because he too does not believe the reef was the cause of the death. He said, however, the community should instead work toward banning fishing near the structures and using biodegradable fishing line.

"We snorkel the reefs quite often and they are amazing," Williams said. "They are a great program for teaching and raising awareness. We see manta rays, sharks and sea turtles. It's a great platform that we've never seen here before."