This balloon was found washed ashore at 3 Mile Beach CA.
One of the more ubiquitous marine debris items is the balloon with
curly-cue ribbons trailing behind, usually densely intermingled with seaweed. I used to wonder what happened to released balloons
once they left the fingertips of a birthday kid whose grip loosened or at the
end of a celebration when the strings were cut and balloons were emancipated to
the skies. Now that Iâve been looking, I see that they often end up in our seas
and eventually, are brought back to our shores to show us where theyâve been. Aside from deadly entanglement issues, marine animals like sea
turtles wind up mistaking floating balloons for squid and ingesting them. There
have been many accounts of marine animals --
whales, sea turtles, fish, and seabirds - sea turtles swallowing balloons. Balloons are usually found washed up singularly, but occasionally
form twisted aggregations. Ribbons (made of plastic) used to tie balloons can pose more
of a problem than the balloons, which can be made of natural latex.
Balloons make their way around the gyre just as any other piece of
plastic would â there is no way to know the when and where of this balloonâs
origins, but you can see from the accumulation of barnacles and algae that it
has made its rounds through and possibly across the ocean. For every downed
balloon you see on a beach, you can assume there are many, many more waiting to
be ingested by sea life or washed ashore.
The following information is from Clean Ocean Action:
"Dr. Peter Lutz, noted sea turtle biologist in Florida, published
a study in 1990 on the ingestion of latex balloon pieces by sea turtles....Dr. Lutz' study found:
1. When offered a mix of pieces of clear plastic and brightly colored latex,
the turtles showed a strong preference for the latex pieces over the plastic.
2. In experiments with latex only, sea turtles demonstrated that if
their appetite is sufficient, they will actively swim towards and ingest latex
materials, that all colors are acceptable, and that the amount ingested will
depend on their nutritional state.
3. The length of time that the latex remained in the turtle's
intestinal tract ranged from a few days to four months, with a peak time period
of eight weeks. (Note: the normal gut passage time in sea turtles is approx. 10
4. Turtles passed multiple pieces bound together, although they had
ingested the individual pieces at different times, showing the possible
cumulative effect of ingestion of latex balloon pieces.
Evidence of Impacts: Scientists who work with stranded whales,
dolphins, seals and sea turtles have been looking at the stomach contents of
these dead marine animals. These scientists have found balloons, parts of
balloons and balloon string during numerous necropsies.
Releasing balloons into the air is littering, and ultimately the
balloons will return to earth. The balloon industry claims that balloons
explode in many tiny harmless fragments when they reach a certain altitude.
Beach Sweep data refutes this claim. Over 32,000 balloons were picked-up on
beaches during the 1999 cleanup - clear evidence that many return to earth