|Contact:||Joanie Steinhaus, Gulf Program Director, firstname.lastname@example.org|
City of Galveston Considers Banning Balloon Releases to Protect Wildlife
GALVESTON, Texas — Galveston City Council is considering passing an ordinance that would ban the open release of latex and mylar balloons. The discussion comes after Joanie Steinhaus of Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) convinced Galveston Mayor Craig Brown and City Councilmember William Schuster to draft the ordinance.
When balloons are released they fall back to the environment and litter beaches and ocean habitats. Deflated balloons and string can trap, entangle, suffocate and kill thousands of marine animals every year, including sea turtles that eat balloons because they think it is a jellyfish. When animals eat deflated balloons it becomes lodged in their digestive tract, trapping air and disrupting their ability to dive. This leads to the animal’s inability to feed or protect themself and, eventually, the animal will starve to death.
TIRN launched the Balloon Busting Crew last year to track the number of reported balloon releases in the state. In 2018, our staff has documented over 2,000 balloons released by the general public. In 2019, they documented 1,179 balloons released, and in 2020, they’ve documented 831. This year so far, they’ve reported 380.
“Banning intentional balloon releases in Galveston is just the first step we can take to prevent wildlife from dying of balloon pollution,” said Joanie Steinhaus, TIRN’s Gulf Program Director. “If we really want to make a difference for endangered species like sea turtles, we have to come together as a state and ban balloon releases in Texas.”
Galveston Island is a nesting ground for endangered sea turtles, including the Kemp’s Ridley, the Texas state sea turtle. In May 2018 a volunteer with TIRN found a juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtle with a thick clump of tangled balloon strings wrapped around her neck. The turtle was successfully rehabilitated and released a few weeks later.
In the ordinance, the city emphasized the hazardous threat balloons with “lighter-than-air gases” pose to the environment, and particularly the wildlife and marine animals. Under the possible new ordinance, violators could face up to a $200 fine for a class C misdemeanor.
To join Turtle Island Restoration Network’s campaign to ban balloon releases visit www.seaturtles.org/balloons.