Did you know that balloons cause more deaths in seabirds than any other kind of marine debris? Did you hear that balloons have been the most-recorded debris item floating in Jeffrey's Ledge Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Maine for at least 11 years? This is a critical habitat for the endangered Right Whale. In 2018 alone, the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation of Portsmouth, NH found over 750 balloons littering the Gulf of Maine during their litter clean up events.
Many more balloons are found (and charitably cleaned up) by Maine’s lobsterwomen and men. According to the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation, misidentifying a balloon as a buoy is frustrating and takes boats out of their way, wasting valuable time and resources. Not only that, littered balloons and their ribbons often get tangled in motors and propellers of lobster boats.
Balloons travel far and wide when released into the air. Balloons from Niagara Falls, NY have been found in the Rachel Carson Wildlife refuge in Wells. In 1998, a balloon famously traveled 5,300 miles in 49 hours from Japan to Los Angeles.
We know that mass balloon releases happen regularly in Maine, in rural and urban areas, primarily with plastic ribbons attached. Unfortunately, the releases result in a littering of our land and water, which presumably wasn’t the intent of the event organizers. No one intends to injure or kill whales, birds, seals, and sea turtles when they release a balloon, but that is what is happening.
There is confusion about the safety of balloon releases in part because the balloon industry has been misleading the public for years by promoting the false notion that latex balloons are biodegradable.
The fact is, researchers have found that balloons do not meet the definition of biodegradable and experience shows that is especially true in a marine environment, where many released balloons end up.
NRCM recommends giving up balloons altogether because the harms go beyond litter that threatens wildlife:
- Balloons are the number one cause of choking deaths in children, and few people know that the inhalation of helium can cause death.
- Plus there is a global helium shortage. This finite resource badly needs conservation because it is needed in science and medicine.
Maine towns and cities are starting to take action to ban the outdoor release and display of balloons. This is a great way to prevent balloon litter and begin to educate your community about the harm caused by balloons.
Take some time to educate yourself on the catastrophic environmental dangers posed by balloons. Then pass an ordinance to ban the outdoor release and display of balloons in your community. We are here to help.