Agua Mala

Yesterday we were in the Gulf Stream going up the Florida coast, and I was seeing lots of Portuguese Man O’ Wars – those jellyfish with purple tentacles and the clear crimped air-bubble-things that keep them afloat. My deck hand, who is Cuban, told me that in Cuba they call these and jellyfish in general “agua mala” (“bad water”) and it’s pretty clear how the name came about. There was something else in the water too: garbage. A lot of it. Cups, cans, bottles, plastic bags, old fishing buoys; at one point we saw what we thought for a minute was an enormous man-o-war, but when I looked at it through binoculars, I could see it was actually a huge pink mylar balloon. Given that it was the nineteenth of February, it doesn’t take much to figure when it landed out here. Over the next hour I counted five of these things – all red or pink, all heart-shaped, all partially deflated, and I was so frustrated by all the V-day trash. Yuck!

I remember when I was in second grade, an environmentalist-type lady came into our classroom one day and taught us about pollution in the ocean, and for some reason one thing in particular stuck with me: the damage done by mylar balloons. I mean seriously, when people let those things float away into the sky, where do they think they’re going to end up? Space? Let me tell you where they will for sure end up: the ocean. And each one of those balloons will probably kill an animal, most likely a sea turtle or a whale who will think they’re actually eating food. It makes me so sad that for the unfortunate creatures who mistake bags and balloons for a jellyfish snack, the ocean is truly “bad water”.

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