Balloons have a special place in the memories of many; they are associated with Birthdays, whimsy, and fun. They’re tied to every grocery store check-out lane and used to draw attention to open houses, grand openings and all kinds of experiences.
We’ve known for years that sea turtles can mistake deflated balloons for jellyfish. The shape, material, and colors resemble their favorite food when floating in the water: jellyfish!
Consuming a balloon, however, can cause sea turtles (and other animals) to suffer internal blockages that can result in death.
The attached string or ribbon is equally dangerous. If the ribbon or string wraps around an animal, they can become trapped or unable to feed. These strings can also cut into their skin, leading to infections or even amputated appendages.
Sargassum seaweed, which regularly appears on the shores of Cumberland Island, is often unintentionally woven into tight mats held together by ribbon or string.
First and foremost, choose safer alternatives when celebrating. These could include:
Advocate for including balloon releases in litter laws and banning balloon releases. Hosting a party at a rented venue? Encourage the venue to ban balloon releases for anyone celebrating at their property! Does your dentist give balloons to young patients? Ask them to consider an alternative and explain why!
Educate your friends and family about the hazards that balloons pose to wildlife and the environment. Suggest some of our environmentally-friendly ways to celebrate other than a balloon release.
Remove ribbons, strings, and balloons when you’re walking on the beaches of Cumberland Island — or anywhere in nature that you might encounter them.
If you do end up with a balloon, please make sure to pop it when you’re finished — and dispose of it properly. That includes removing the string or ribbon, cutting it up and putting it into an appropriate trash receptacle.
We’re often contacted by visitors who have witnessed damage to the island’s ecosystem, or blatant disregard of policy protections. We encourage you to report these to the National Park Service and also complete this form.
Thank you for your respectful stewardship of Cumberland Island.