HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WPDE) — A man who explores the Atlantic Ocean said balloon littering in the water is a common sight through summer celebrations, which lines up directly with sea turtle nesting season.
After Chris Spies saved what’s thought to be the rarest, and most endangered species of a sea turtle from one of the balloons, people across the globe are sharing photos of his experience.
We left from Fire Island Inlet and went about 20 miles offshore, and the entire way, we were picking up balloons,” Spies said while adding they often veered off course to chase some down. “As my friend went to pick one up, we noticed there was actually a sea turtle entangled in it.
He said they pulled the turtle in, untangled the balloon, and the turtle swam away, seemingly exhausted from swimming while attached to the balloon.
Some of the marine biologists here think it was a Kemp’s Ridley, which is not one of the largest sea turtles.
It’s the smallest of all seven sea turtle species, but according to South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources, it’s also the rarest and most endangered in the world.
While that was the only turtle they say on their trip that day, Spies said balloons are far too common out there.
You’ll find, sometimes out there, they’re broken apart, or you’ll find one, and you’ll look, and there’s another one 100 yards away, and another one after that,” he said.
“You can spend half your day running around and chasing balloons.”
He said the early part of the summer is often littered with graduation balloons and birthday balloons.
Since balloons are often tangled together from several different types of celebrations, he said he doesn’t believe they’re out there because of a balloon release, but rather because they weren’t properly disposed of.
No matter how they ended up in the ocean, though, he said it really doesn’t take long before they littered the ocean.
Father’s Day was on a Sunday, and we were finding Father’s Day balloons out in the ocean three days later.
While those who stay on or close to the shore might not realize the severity of littered balloons Spies has seen in the ocean, a Facebook post showing his point of view has been shared more than 19,000 times.
I think pictures speak better than words,” he said, “that’s why I just keep posting the photos that I do.
Spies said his message is for people to make sure balloons are popped and in a trash can when celebrations are over.