Balloon Release (File)

Safeguarding Florida’s Wildlife: Gov. DeSantis Signs Bill Banning Balloon Releases

Balloon Release (File)
Balloon Release (File)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that prohibits the intentional release of balloons into the open sky.

This legislation, which takes effect on July 1st, aims to address the growing concerns over the detrimental impact of balloon pollution on the state’s delicate ecosystems.

Balloon releases, once a common practice for celebrations and memorials, have emerged as a significant threat to wildlife.

When these inflated objects are released, they can travel vast distances, often ending up in waterways or the ocean, where they pose a grave danger to marine animals.

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Sea turtles, in particular, mistake balloons for their natural prey, jellyfish, and can suffer severe consequences upon ingesting them.

Additionally, the ribbons and strings attached to balloons can become entangled around the necks and bodies of various species, leading to injury, strangulation, and even death.

The impact of balloon pollution on Florida’s wildlife is well-documented. During coastal cleanup efforts, researchers have reported collecting tens of thousands of balloons in a single year.

Tragically, the bodies of deceased manatees have been found to contain pieces of these wayward balloons, highlighting the dire consequences of this issue. Sea turtles, in particular, have been observed targeting balloons, mistaking them for their natural food source.

When these animals ingest the balloons, the objects can become lodged in their throats, requiring costly and complex surgical interventions to remove them.

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Balloon pollution is not confined to coastal regions; its impact can be felt far inland as well. Advocates have reported finding balloons in even the most remote and pristine areas of the state, including the Florida Everglades. Cows have also been observed consuming the discarded balloons, highlighting the widespread nature of this problem.

The bill signed by Governor DeSantis, known as CS/HB 321, explicitly prohibits the intentional release of balloons in Florida.

The law includes several exceptions, such as allowing the release of balloons for scientific or meteorological purposes, as well as the release of hot air balloons that are subsequently recovered. Additionally, children under the age of 6 are exempt from the law.

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Individuals or organizations found to be in violation of the new law will face a noncriminal littering infraction, resulting in a fine of up to $150. Fifty dollars of this fine will be directed towards the Solid Waste Management Trust Fund’s grant program, which supports initiatives aimed at addressing the plastic pollution crisis.

The bill was sponsored by two Pinellas County Republicans and received support from both sides of the aisle.

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