Boat captain says Mylar balloons littering Marco, concerned for wildlife

Reporter: Taylor Smith Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Mylar balloons and other discarded items litter a beach in Southwest Florida. Credit: Shared with WINK News.

Dozens of deflated balloons have been littering beaches and threatening wildlife.

A fisherman on Marco Island told us he sees balloons both in the water and on the shore, picking up 17 to 20 daily. He’s worried most because this is happening during sea turtle nesting season. When Mylar balloons wash up on beaches or are found in the water, they can be harmful to the sea turtles as well as other wildlife.

Captain Carlos Escarra of Nautical Life Shelling Tours says balloons are not pretty when they are harming or even killing wildlife.

Every day when Escarra heads out to the barrier islands, he finds dozens of Mylar balloons.

“These balloons are being released into the air, and they are landing on these barrier islands,” Escarra said. “I have, with my guests, been picking up as many as 17 to 20.”

They must come down eventually, and it creates a harmful environment for sea turtles.

“This Mylar will turn to a clear coating. Overtime, the film on it will disappear from the ultraviolet ray, and it just looks like a jellyfish, and these sea turtles eat jellyfish” Escarra said.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida says, although it hasn’t taken in any turtles this year from digesting balloons, it does not mean the animals are not being harmed by them.

Beachgoers we spoke to agreed.

“The trash in the summer, it gets really bad on the beaches,” Denise Watt said.

Mylar balloons are not a danger to ocean life alone. They have a metallic coating on them, which conducts electricity. When a balloon is released and touches a power line, it causes a spark that could cause a fire.

Experts ask people not to release Mylar balloons into the air.

“Everyone needs to be aware and be cautious,” Escarra said. “We all play a big role out here, being a good steward to the environment, everybody.”

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