An endangered grey-headed albatross that died after ingesting a red balloon in the characteristic jellyfish shape. Picture: Lauren Roman
An endangered grey-headed albatross that died after ingesting a red balloon in the characteristic jellyfish shape. Picture: Lauren Roman

Horror behind innocent kids’ treat

We know the damage a plastic bag can do to a turtle.

But check out how a broken balloon looks bobbing around in the ocean.

 

Broken balloons look like jellyfish and are dangerous for our marine life.
Broken balloons look like jellyfish and are dangerous for our marine life.

While it's fun for a child to grab a balloon at a shopping centre or play with them at birthday parties, they can be a danger to our marine life if they aren't disposed of properly because they end up looking like jellyfish.

In a 2012 University of Queensland study, balloons were identified as being disproportionately consumed by sea turtles based how common they were as litter on Queensland beaches.

In other words, the study found that sea turtles specifically target balloons.

In fact, of all rubber items found inside dead sea turtles, 78 per cent were balloons or balloon fragments.

Sea turtles do not have the ability to throw up so ingestion of human garbage is particularly problematic for them

Ingestion of balloons and plastic can cause "float syndrome" in sea turtles - a painful and often lethal condition where gases form in the digestive tract around the consumed garbage. This causes the animal to float, making them vulnerable to boat strike, shark predation, accumulation of barnacles and sunburn.

They're also unable to dive down for food or protection.

Many ultimately die a slow death by starvation.

And it's not just turtles that are at risk.

 

An endangered grey-headed albatross that died after ingesting a red balloon in the characteristic jellyfish shape. Picture: Lauren Roman
An endangered grey-headed albatross that died after ingesting a red balloon in the characteristic jellyfish shape. Picture: Lauren Roman

A new documentary called Rubber Jellyfish by Carly Wilson hopes to bring this issue to the forefront and incite change.

In most parts of the world balloon release ceremonies are legal as a popular way of memorialising lost loved ones.

Since the late 1980s balloon suppliers have been labelling balloons as "100 per cent biodegradable and environmentally friendly" which has contributed to the popularity of balloon release ceremonies.

Ms Wilson said updated research debunked that flawed statement, which showed balloon litter was not biodegradable when it hit salt water.

"Australian waters host all six of the world's endangered sea turtles species," she said.

"Our politicians in Canberra couldn't care less. All my calls and emails to the then-Minister for the Environment, Josh Frydenberg, and his advisers, fell on deaf ears.

"Eventually I did receive a form letter that swept the issue under the carpet. This is despite a change.org petition with over 13,000 signatures that directly addressed him and this issue."

The movie is being released in cinemas across Australia from November.

 

 

All of these balloons were collected on the nesting beach for a population of critically endangered loggerhead sea turtles on the Sunshine Coast. Picture: Larissa McCollin
All of these balloons were collected on the nesting beach for a population of critically endangered loggerhead sea turtles on the Sunshine Coast. Picture: Larissa McCollin


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