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My Beautiful Balloons?

In keeping with our recent Beach Clean, we asked one of our clients (Andrew Crowder) to write an article for our website about his experiences as a Conservationist with ORCA. He wrote the following. We really hope you enjoy it and thanks Andrew for this – we loved it! 

My name is Andrew Crowder and, as a client of Thomas and Thomas, I was talking with Darren about their upcoming beach cleaning event. I have a personal interest in the health our marine environment as a qualified Cruise Conservationist with ORCA, a charity dedicated to monitoring and protecting whales, dolphins and porpoise. Following our conversation Darren invited me to write this short article about my personal experience of marine pollution.

I had recently read a scientific paper (Roman et al, Scientific Reports, 2019) which showed that balloons were the deadliest plastic to seabirds, being 32 times more likely to kill them than when ingesting hard plastics. This followed on from a similar study that showed the same impact on sea turtles. As part of my role with ORCA, I undertake marine mammal surveys on board ferries and cruise ships. In 2018 on a cruise to Norway and Iceland, our team recorded 5 inflated balloons on the passage to and from Iceland.

Now five may not sound that many but consider the following facts. On board a single ship you can only survey a very narrow track of a massive sea, only during daylight hours and can only record the balloons that are visible in the conditions (e.g. deflated balloons are almost impossible to spot).

Also, we were not even in coastal waters – they were sighted in the deep ocean, often hundreds of miles from land. This can only mean that there are literally thousands drifting out into the North Atlantic.

The biological significance of this is that seabirds, such as fulmars, shearwaters and petrels, hunt largely by smell and plastic smells like krill (yes, honestly!) which is one of their main prey items. Turtles mistake them for jelly fish. They both literally eat the plastic with which humans have carelessly polluted their environment.

But this is completely avoidable and you can do something about it right now. We all have children in our lives but we can help them inherit a healthier world by not buying them balloons, including those through organised parties. It really is that simple!

If you wish to find out more about ORCA, become a volunteer or make a donation towards their vital work, please visit:


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