John on Press Herald Post 


You have to love those clear hot July days on the water.  The boat leaves harbor at sun-up and runs straight out to sea for two hours to a favorite offshore fishing ground.  As the morning wears on the sun beats down, the air becomes still and the surface of the water as smooth as glass.

balloonThen you see them.  Little dots of color on the horizon.  Balloons.  Party balloons.  Helium balloons that have lost their lift.  They float on top of the water barely touching the surface, trailing streamers of colored ribbon like a kite with a tail.

I hate balloons.  I especially hate mylar balloons – they don’t seem to break down in the environment.  I’ve found mylar balloons floating at sea that had obviously been around for years.  The foil and pigment had flaked off, the balloon just clear plastic with algae growing on it.

The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary program does research on whales.  Last summer, during tagging research, we counted 42 animals one day feeding in an area of two-mile radius.  You could stand on top of the boat and see whales everywhere you looked, mouths wide open coming up out of the water.

I picked up half-a-dozen balloons that day from my boat, plus all sorts of other plastic detritus.  I’m sure a balloon wouldn’t kill a whale if it accidentally shallow one. It’s just the idea of it – plastic litter at sea.  It’s not right.

People don’t hold onto their balloons!  That’s why I don’t like balloons – they have to end up somewhere after they fly away.  I suspect that after a good summer’s weekend, with kids’ parties, weddings, county fairs and  sporting events, all the helium balloons in New England end up in the North Atlantic (if the wind’s right).

Of course, I don’t like parties either.  Especially birthday parties.  Especially mine.