Monday, March 28, 2011

Up, up and away ... to where ?

At the park yesterday I saw a family celebrating a child's birthday.  They'd all marched down the street with loads of colourful, helium-filled balloons.

With great excitement they counted down and released them.

A shiney mylar balloon caught in a bush near me and a boy rushed to free it.

The naiivity of this tradition baffles me.

No thought was given to where those balloons were going and what their impact might be when they get there.

The best-case scenario is visual pollution.

The worst case is dead marine life.

"Happy Birthday son, you've killed a baby whale."

An infant sperm whale met its death in New Jersey in 1985 as a result of ingestion of an inflated mylar balloon which had lodged in its intestines. Consequently, the whale died of starvation.*

On a recent whale watching tour off the coast of Santa Barbara where we were delighted with the visit of several blue whales and a pod of hundreds of dolphins, we found out where, oh so many of these balloons decide to land. So often they are blown out to sea where they finally rest on its surface, and from below, to the marine life, these party balloons resemble a major food type... jellyfish. It is here where these symbols of celebration turn deadly. I never really thought about where those balloons go, but I've seen many released and floating by. I never suspected they could kill whales, dolphins, and sea turtles. After exiting childhood, I viewed the floating balloons as thoughtless litter, not much more. Now I know that they are killers. I had no idea. **

It's not unusual for balloons to be eaten by whales, dolphins, turtles, and other marine life, who mistake them for food, such as jellyfish.

'nuff said.


*  Marine Conservation Society:

** Gulf Area Sea Paddlers:

US balloon companies have formed The Balloon Council to fight restrictive laws and argue for the relative safety of properly handled balloon releases. (Hmmm -- "relative safety")


  1. I've known for too many years already. Didn't you get the memo? So much of what we consider trivial 'stuff' ends up torturing marine animals before cutting their lives short. Some of the worst torture devices are the plastic ringed holders for beer and pop cans.

  2. You are very wise Obi Wan

  3. How can anyone possibly not know? The truth is: there are many people who really don't care. They want to have their fun and some even cross their fingers that nothing bad will come of it. I've seen it far too often. Maybe we do need one of those stupid laws for stupid wearing seatbelts and public littering.

  4. :(,

    When I first started reading this, I was all excited and wanted to try it.

    This is incredibly unfortunate and I don't think anyone ever thinks of where they go.

  5. I once saw a calf in a field with a string coming out of its mouth with a balloon on the end. The poor little creature was terrified, and was bucking around the field trying to get rid of it. Finally two cows managed to nudge it until the balloon was freed and floated off to who knows where. You're right, people just want pleasure without thinking of the consequences

  6. How sad Lynne about the calf. Glad the cows sorted things out.

    It seems like such a fun innocent thing to do Amy. It's hard to always predict the outcome of our actions.


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