Anyone who has spent a bit of time on the water or on our ocean shores here in Maryland will tell you how unsurprising it is to find balloons scattered about: simple white wedding balloons, shiny cartoon balloons for children’s parties, and any number of bits and pieces of colored balloons, many with strings still attached.
The sad, shredded, and faded pieces of balloons stuck to dune grass or floating half-deflated in the water are a strange disconnect from the happy or meaningful events from where these balloons were originally released.
It would be bad enough if these balloons were just another piece of litter degrading our oceans and beaches, but because of their shape and because they often float, marine wildlife such as turtles, birds, and whales can die from ingesting them, or become entangled in the attached ribbon.
A washed up whale was recently found in the Philippines with 80 pounds of balloons in its stomach.
A four-legged coastal denizen was recently observed suffering through our balloon release habit, and it was big news in Maryland.
Last summer, sharp-eyed Assateague pony lovers were horrified to spot one with a balloon ribbon hanging from its mouth. The pony has survived, but you could easily imagine it not being as lucky the next time around.
Another issue with balloon releases is the impact to electrical infrastructure from the shiny mylar balloons.
Behind only squirrels, these metallic balloons have caused many electrical outages when they land on high voltage components.
Yes, balloons may be fun to release for some, but up until recently nobody thought too much about where they end up.
Now, local governments, cities, and states across the country such as California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, and the Town of Ocean City and Queen Anne’s County right here in Maryland, are lining up to make it illegal to purposefully release balloons.
And before you start imagining the fun police arresting young children who accidentally let go of their prized balloon, take a deep breath because what these laws are actually concerned with are events where multiple balloons are purposefully released, like sports games, memorials, and weddings.
Currently, the Ocean City Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation is encouraging Worcester County to pass legislation making it a crime to purposefully release balloons.
If you live in Worcester County and want to send your County Commissioners a message, visit https://secured.surfrider.org/action/engagement?actionId=AR0027118&id=701i00000018YoU
Let’s put an end to the degrading of our Maryland shores through thoughtless balloon releases.
Jane Robinson, Chair
Surfrider Foundation Ocean City Chapter