Balloon release harmful to marine wildlife

Loggerhead hatchling
- Cindy Lane | Sun

Balloon release concerns Turtle Watch

BRADENTON BEACH – Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring was notified through an anonymous tip that on Friday, Feb. 10, at sunset, about 50 people walked out of a restaurant and released “dozens of green and yellow balloons over the sea.”

Other callers reported to Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox that the balloons were delivered to the restaurant around 4:30 p.m. that night in a minivan, she said.

Fox said she is asking city officials to remind business owners that they should not allow balloon releases from their business.

Florida Statute 379.233 makes it unlawful to intentionally release 10 or more balloons in 24 hours; violators can incur a $250 fine. The law calls balloons “a danger and nuisance to the environment, particularly to wildlife and marine animals.”

Exceptions exist for hot air balloons, balloons released by a governmental agency, balloons released indoors and biodegradable balloons, as determined by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

A 2014 attempt to increase the number to 100 balloons failed.

Studies have shown that sea turtles eat plastic, mistaking it for jellyfish, and often die from it.

If anyone finds a sea turtle, bird or other wildlife that was injured by the balloons, please call Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation at 941-778-6324.