OSSABAW ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) — People may not immediately realize it as they release balloons into the air, but on its journey down, a balloon can quickly become pollution.
Balloons often land on coastlines where they can harm marine life, including the endangered Loggerhead sea turtle.
Two employees with Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are hoping to spread awareness about this issue with a startling photo.
It shows Sea Turtle Technicians Caleigh Quick and Breanna Sorg posing with the hundreds of balloons they found on Ossabaw Island over the past four months — 247 balloons, to be exact.
They collected the balloons along the 10-mile stretch of shoreline while they were out monitoring for Loggerhead sea turtle nesting activity during what Quick called a historic nesting season for Georgia.
The balloons, she told News 3, are a threat to sea turtles, which may mistake them for food.
“Sea turtles mistake them for jellyfish, which is one of their food sources, and they eat them,” Quick said.
She and Sorg collected the balloons between May 6 and Sept. 23.
Quick said they came across the most balloons surrounding holidays like Mother’s Day and the Fourth of July. They also discovered balloons with writing on them, as if the owner was trying to send a message to heaven.
“I found that one that had a message that was written on both sides of the balloon that was indicative that it was released to honor a loved one that had passed away,” she said.
On the Facebook post accompanying the photo, Quick wrote: “There are so many other ways to honor a loved one. Balloons do not go up to your heaven, they come down on ours.”
She says she wants to encourage beach visitors to do their best to keep the shores clean and help protect marine life from pollution.
“Just make sure you leave no trace,” Quick told News 3. “Leave things how you found it, or better than you found it.”
In 2018, Quick’s fellow DNR sea turtle technicians collected more than 600 balloons on Ossabaw Island.