Come along to beach clean

A balloon is found near to the Farne Islands.
A balloon is found near to the Farne Islands.

An environmental campaigner is trying to raise awareness of the dangers that released balloons and lanterns pose to wildlife.

Eleanor Phillips, from Longhoughton, says that the county’s beaches are awash with this sort of debris, which not only looks untidy but can have deadly consequences for animals.

Dead bird.

Dead bird.

She has warned that, if swallowed, balloons can block an animal’s gut, causing it to starve, while creatures can become entangled in balloon ribbons and string, restricting their movement and ability to feed.

Eleanor said: “Local environmentalists along the North East coast are concerned about the high amount of balloons and lanterns that are landing on beaches and in the sea, endangering wildlife, especially at this time of year when folks have beach parties or parties inland then release the balloons.

“The other day along the beach just south of Alnmouth, a friend of mine ran for just one mile and took 22 photos of balloons polluting the beach.

“The worst picture she took was of a dead gull strangled by one of the balloon ties.”

As part of the campaign, a group of environmentalists, including Eleanor, are recording the locations and numbers of balloons found along the North East coast over the period of a month.

They will then make contact with as many organisations as possible regarding the dangers to wildlife, especially to companies either letting them off or giving them to children.

Eleanor said: “Balloons float up into the air and disappear from people’s thoughts, but they don’t disappear from the environment.

“I want to make people more aware of where that balloon goes or ends up. I am not against balloons, but I would urge people not to release them deliberately. Once balloons are released, they are littering the environment.”

Beach-litter surveys organised by the Marine Conservation Society have shown that the number of balloons and balloon pieces found on UK beaches has tripled in the last 10 years.

A Facebook page, entitled People Against Balloons Harming Sealife, has been created to help raise awareness.