No More Balloon Releases in Florida

On February 15, the Florida House of Representatives approved House Bill 321, which bans the deliberate release of balloons. The bill, presented by Linda Chaney, a Republican representing southern Pinellas County, and sponsored by Sen. Nick DiCeglie, also a Republican from St. Petersburg, FL, passed with a vote of 114 to 1.

Chaney was motivated by the case of Chex, a sea turtle rescued and rehabilitated by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Chex was found floating near Redington Pier, and it was later discovered that the turtle had ingested a balloon three times its body length, putting its life at risk.

The scientific community acknowledges that discarded balloons pose a threat to various living organisms, including sea turtles, birds, and mammals. A review by the Ocean Conservancy, a non-profit ocean protection organization, revealed that 1 in 3 birds ingesting a balloon died as a result.

The new bill modifies existing rules that previously allowed the release of up to 10 balloons within a 24-hour period. It is now illegal, with fines of up to $150 for anyone caught releasing balloons. The Senate will now review the bill for final passage.

The legislation was prompted by concerns over the environmental impact of balloon releases, especially after incidents, such as one in 2022, where individuals were seen popping balloons into the water from a boat. In that case, the Miami-Dade police issued civil citations, and the perpetrators faced felony charges for their reckless actions.

This bill reflects a common-sense approach to protecting the environment, particularly in addressing the issue of plastic in our waters. It emphasizes the importance of considering the consequences before releasing balloons, as anything that goes up will eventually come down and could potentially cause harm, regardless of its weight.