By Mitch Perry, Florida Phoenix
Balloons pose a serious danger to wildlife, including marine mammals, seabirds and sea turtles, according to the Ocean Conservation Society. They can be mistaken for food by several marine species, and animals can die from starvation when balloons block their digestive tracts, or when they became entangled in balloon strings.
To prevent those events from taking place in the future, a measure backed by environmental groups would ban the intentional release of any balloon in Florida. The measure advanced unanimously in its first committee hearing of the upcoming legislative session in Tallahassee on Tuesday.
Current law in Florida bans any person from releasing 10 or more balloons within a 24-hour period, with a $250 fine for those who violate that law. The new proposal (HB 321) sponsored by Tampa Bay area Republican Linda Chaney in the Florida House would ban the intentional release of any balloon (with exceptions for balloons that are released by a person on behalf of a government agency for scientific or meteorological purposes).
“This bill specifies that the intentional release of any balloon would be considered litter, and moved to the litter statute,” Chaney told members of a House committee on Tuesday. The measure also includes biodegradable balloons as litter.
Marine mammals, seabirds and sea turtles often mistakenly ingest balloons thinking that they are an actual food source, according to a report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Because they are unable to digest it, the balloon ends up either blocking their digestive system or becoming stuck in their digestive system. There have been more than 31 balloon laws passed nationwide, according to the Surfrider Foundation.
“Florida is a top nesting location for turtles and the only location in the U.S. where leatherback (sea) turtles can nest, and a released balloon harms not only the environment but marine life and livestock,” Chaney told the House Subcommittee on Agriculture, Conservation & Resiliency, who passed the proposal unanimously.
Chaney proposed a similar bill in the 2023 regular legislative session, but that measure never moved out of the same committee that advanced it on Tuesday. The Senate version (SB 602) has been filed by Pinellas County Republican Nick DiCeglie.
Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: email@example.com. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter. This piece was originally published at https://floridaphoenix.com/2023/12/12/to-save-wildlife-florida-lawmakers-could-ban-the-intentional-release-of-balloons/.