OSSABAW ISLAND, Ga. (WTGS) — Plastic, rope, fishing line and ballons are just a few of the items two Sea Turtle Technicians with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have come across on their walks patrolling sea turtle nests.
Between May 6 to Sept. 23, Caleigh Quick and Breanna Sorg have collected 247 balloons on the 17.2 km stretch of shoreline that the two patrol on Ossabaw Island.
The island is Georgia's third-largest barrier island and is only accessible by boat. Twenty minutes south of Savannah, this island is mainly an area for research and education. The 13 miles of beach is open to the public, but does not get as near as much traffic as some of the other beaches along the coast.
Quick and Sorg's job is to monitor for loggerhead sea turtle nesting activity. Along this trek, the two women noticed a lot of plastic, mainly balloons, near the nests and along the beach. Quick points out that the loggerhead turtle is listed as threatened under the endangered species act.
"One of the many things that impact their (loggerheads) status is plastic pollution. They often mistake balloons for jellyfish," said Quick in a Facebook post.
It is not just the sea turtles the two are worried about. "Additionally, the attached ribbon can entangle birds and other wildlife," said Quick.
Quick says that many of the balloons they have found are ones with messages written to loved ones who have passed away.
"There are so many other ways to honor a loved one. Balloons do not go up to your heaven, they come down on ours," said Quick.
She says that it is not just the balloons that are found on the beach. Disposable plastic water bottles, straws, utensils, a variety of fishing gear including nets, line and crab pots, as well as, washed up buoys, tires and plastic beach toys have been picked up during their checks.
There are several alternatives to releasing a balloon for a loved one that you have lost, such as, bubbles, flying a kite, releasing doves or butterflies. Make sure that the butterflies you release will thrive in the local environment.