Balloons and turtles don’t mix

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
September 27, 2016 6:54 a.m.


Fernandina Beach Commissioner Len Kreger
Fernandina Beach Commissioner Len Kreger

Anyone who has spent any time at all chatting with Fernandina Beach City Commissioner Len Kreger knows that protecting turtles ranks high on his priority list. He has spent much time and effort, both in office and as a private citizen, working with like-minded activists to create a safe nesting habitat for loggerhead turtles on Amelia Island.

Kreger raised his latest turtle protection initiative—banning balloons from beaches –at the end of the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) September 20, 2016 Regular Meeting. Citing the threat to turtles posed by balloons, Kreger provided a sample of signage and educational material prepared by the Loggerhead Marine Life Center in Juno Beach, FL. Kreger suggested beginning with an educational program before proceeding to writing a city ordinance with an outright ban on balloons. Other commissioners supported this approach.


In a subsequent email, Kreger wrote: “I believe that a realistic goal is to implement [a balloon ban] sequentially starting with an education program coupled with installation of signage at our three beach parks, understanding that the program needs to be expanded to be effective.   We will strongly support expanding this ban and promulgating an ordinance, along with working the Nassau County for their consideration.

“We may also need support and assistance in the educational portion of the program.  I will be soliciting this support from individuals and organizations, including the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch, Wild Amelia, Amelia Island Earthkeepers, and the Sierra Club.”

Kreger provided this photo taken by Pat Leary showing balloon debris at the Fort Clinch pier beach.
Kreger provided this photo taken by Pat Leary showing balloon debris at the Fort Clinch pier beach.

Next month Kreger will visit the Loggerhead Marine Life Center for more information on establishing an effective program. He hopes to have a plan ready for FBCC review and comment by the end of October.

Suanne Thamm 4Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.

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Dave Lott
Dave Lott(@dave-l)
7 years ago

While I understand the concept, I question the effectiveness of such a ban. With prevailing offshore breezes I believe that most balloons released from the beach would sail westward toward the river and marsh. While still posing a threat to marine life in the river and marshes, it’s not going to protect the turtles out in the ocean. I suspect that the balloons that wash up on our beaches originate in other locations along the coast and such instances will not be impacted by a beach ban.
I certainly support an educational program regarding entanglement whether it be from plastic bags, the six-pack plastic rings, balloons, netting, etc. The beaches all along the southeastern coast are seeing a record number of nests and hatchlings with resulting survival rates. Passing such an ordinance may be a “feel good” one but is likely to have no impact other than another “NO” thing for the beach.

Pat whitley
Pat whitley (@guest_47980)
7 years ago
Reply to  Dave Lott

I agree with Dave Lott

Lyn Williams
Lyn Williams (@guest_47959)
7 years ago

An offshore breeze blows toward the water, not away from it.

Betsie Huben
Betsie Huben(@betsie-huben)
7 years ago

Totally support the effort but would have to say I did not think it possible to have as many signs on one barrier island as we do here. My personal favorite has become the roundabout at Bailey Road. Who has time to read everything now posted there? Signs become their own debris a la Peter’s Point where a massive sign posted by the county about beach etiquette became a victim of strong winds. There are way too many to read to be practical in their continued and overused application. Why not one phrase – “Leave No Trace” at the walk overs and parking lots and stop there? Spend time, money, educational effort on the folks who sell balloons. Can we not enlist their support and ask them to go with a more eco-sensitive product than latex and mylar and ribbons?