Signs. Signs. Everywhere, Signs.

“Do this, Don’t do that, Can’t you read the sign?”

In 1970, the Five Man Electrical Band came out with the song, Signs, about the abundance of signage in our day to day life. The lyrics are still relevant forty-five years later.

This one line “Do this, Don’t do that, Can’t you read the sign?” even applies to sea turtles.  

Danger Ahead.  Don’t Cross.  Slow Down.  Steep Hill.  Curve.  Driving along we see lots of warning signs on the road.  They are all there to help us get from point A to point B as safely as possible.

Smoking causes cancer.  Drinking alcohol impairs judgement.  Contents of the cup may be hot.  This food made in a facility with nut by products.  We see warning signs on cigarettes, alcohol, coffee and food.  Again they are all there to help inform us about potential risks to our health if we ingest it.

Warning: Choking Hazard.  This item may be a choking hazard for children under the age of 2 years.  We see this warning on bags, toys and balloons to remind us not to leave a little child alone with these things.

That’s a lot of signs out there to help us navigate around or away from things that can potentially harm us.

What a great thing that we can read! 

While there are currents and tides for sea turtles to “travel” along, there are no set roads and definitely no signs.  Even if there were – SEA TURTLES CAN’T READ.  (Or, at least as far as we know they can’t.)

No signs saying, “Don’t crawl that way to make your nest, there’s a big hole!”

No sign saying, “Don’t swim that way, there’s an oil spill!”

Of course, there are signs on balloons that warn of choking hazard.  However, SEA TURTLES CAN’T READ.  And, those colorful and shiny balloons, with their dang-ly strings swaying look just like yummy, tasty jelly fish!

That would be like someone putting your favorite meal or treat in front of you and saying don’t eat this, ever.  Yeah, right.  

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine you are a hungry sea turtle swimming along and you pass a balloon floating in the water swaying with the flow of the ocean.  What does that balloon look like to the hungry sea turtle you?  A jelly fish.

Except you can’t read the warning sign and don’t realize it isn’t a jellyfish until it is too late.  

It is now stuck in your intestinal track.  If you eat too many of these there will be nowhere for any real food to go and nourish you.  Sadly, sea turtle you will not survive.

Now you’re probably thinking, yeah right.  However, thanks to several necropsies (autopsies on animals) done on sea turtles, we know this to be very true.  Balloons are a choking hazard not only for children under two but also for sea turtles.

Balloons are fun things.  We get it.  They’re an easy, fast and inexpensive way to add height, color and/ or sparkle to the decorations for your event.  However, if you’re having a wedding or event on the beach and you’re not going to clean up afterwards or have someone cleanup for you – please rethink using balloons in your decorations.

The wind spins the balloons weakening the string used to tie them down.  This causes the strings to brake off not too long after you’ve tied them so they float off and land – you guessed it – in the ocean.  If you really NEED balloons for your event, then please designate someone to make sure the balloons are removed from the beach and either reused, re-gifted or deflated and thrown away.

So to answer the question in the song “Can you read the sign?” on behalf of sea turtles – no, sea turtles can’t read the sign.

For them to live, we have to read the signs for them and keep the balloons out of the ocean.  


-By Faith W.