The Ventilator

Incorporating The Ranger's Blog

Litter and waste

Smoking for Turtles

Matthew Chatfield

Here’s a promotional flyer for an extremely unusual charitable fund-raising drive:

Smoking for Turtles: click image for larger version


The Turtle Conservation Society is raising cash for marine wildlife… by promoting smoking? Worried? Don’t be, it’s a hoax, of course. I should know, as I asked my friendly local designer to imagine it for me. You’re probably still wondering what it’s all about. You would be right to do so, as there is, for once, a serious message in this spoof. It was inspired when I was reading an article in the Isle of Wight County Press about how the local hospice is raising money… by having a balloon race, with prizes available for the balloon found furthest away. Regular readers will know my concerns about balloon releases and their effect on wildlife. So whilst I’m all in favour of raising money for the hospice, I thought it would be interesting to turn the tables – what if a marine wildlife charity was raising money by doing something that the hospice would disapprove of? But surely it’s OK to promote balloon releases for a really, really good cause (as the hospice is)? Not really. There are other ways to raise money, which are just as much fun, and don’t harm wildlife. And with us living on an island, we ought to be mindful of our marine biodiversity. So if you’re thinking of a fundraising balloon release, check out this leaflet with some fun alternative balloon ideas first. The Marine Conservation Society says:

Balloon litter floating at sea is deadly for many marine wildlife species. Marine turtles and some seabirds are particularly at risk, as they feed on prey that floats at the surface. Some whales, dolphins and fish are also known to have died as a result of eating balloons. Once balloons are out of sight, they don’t disappear – what goes up must come down! An estimated 90-95% of released balloons rise to an altitude of 5 miles where the temperature and pressure is such that they burst into small fragments. The remaining 5-10% that do not reach a high enough altitude may remain inflated and can float many miles before descending back to the land or the sea semi-inflated.


Oh, and why not donate to the Hospice or MCS, or both?

(This post was first published in 2008 – reposted with minor edits)

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

3 thoughts on “Smoking for Turtles

  • Andrew Reeves-Hall

    Wasn’t just last week that we saw Lord Coe release hundreds of balloons to celebrate the completion of the Olympics Stadium? Yes. Anyone on a ferry out of Dover spotted any? At least the Games just release (Greek homing?) pigeons!

  • I loved this! So appropriate. One of my pet peeves is everybody releasing baloons for everything. Not only are they really bad for wildlife they are a disgusting form of trash. Could never figure out why anyone would ever think this is appropriate. How would everyone feel if we had a dump your trash in the ocean day to see whose landed on the beach first!


  • Princess Tightwad

    Good on you – one local school wanted to do a helium balloon release to celebrate the opening of a new building, and I couldn’t let it go ahead without voicing my concerns too. In the end the children each had an ordinary balloon to take home, and they all had great fun running round the playground with them.
    No turtle was harmed in the opening of the new building.


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