Balloons not so fun for wildlife

 

Sir, –Your correspondent’s hope that the balloons released over Galway Bay last weekend were biodegradable is, sadly, misplaced (July 24th).

The organisers were misled by the manufacturers of the balloons who argue that balloons made of natural materials such as latex are “biodegradable”. However, what the manufacturers do not say is that “biodegradable” balloons on land can take six months to biodegrade and 12 months in the cooler sea – with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recording that latex can reside in stomachs of sea turtles for up to four months.

Helium-filled balloons can travel great distances to become a hazard for sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish, and seabirds who mistake them for jellyfish or other natural prey. Even the strings can entangle wildlife and lead to death by starvation.

Balloon releases have been banned in several US states, Australia, and 62 local authorities in the UK, including four in Northern Ireland.

Local committees in Roscommon and Galway are to be commended for recently cancelling planned releases after a growing chorus of protests.

There are many creative ways to use balloons. A balloon release planned for the January 2013 opening of the Irish EU presidency was rearranged at the last minute after our representations to include a “secure balloon release”, and not a “general balloon release”.

Ironically the direct fly-tipping of balloons is an offence under current litter and waste legislation, while the release of such material into the air is not.

We have written to the Minister for the Environment asking him to close this loophole. – Yours, etc,

TONY LOWES,

Friends of the

Irish Environment,

Eyeries,

Co Cork.