Thankfully, Suffolk County legislators signed into law in September 2019 that it is illegal to intentionally release balloons. I am writing about this now, prompted by a recent upsetting situation.
A group arrived at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge in October, and they released balloons. It was shocking to me, as releasing balloons goes against much of what we teach at the wildlife refuge.
I believe the group meant no harm, as they explained that they purchased biodegradable balloons specifically because of the wildlife. It is important for people to understand that even if balloons are biodegradable, it can take six months to four years for them to biodegrade. During that time, it is likely that the balloons and ribbons will cause injury and/or death to any variety of wildlife, including birds, marine life and land mammals. There is also a good chance the ribbons are not biodegradable and will remain a hazard to wildlife for much longer.
There are probably many folks reading this who are fellow beach walkers and who know that we unfortunately find balloons and ribbons on the beaches throughout the year.
It is up to all of us to let others know how harmful releasing balloons is for wildlife — and that it is against the law in Suffolk County. Offenders can incur fines of up to $1,000. All Suffolk County shops and businesses that sell balloons with helium must (and I hope they do) post signs regarding the ban so that the public is informed. If you happen to go into one of these shops, please take note if the ban is posted and kindly remind them that it should be if it is not.
There are other ways to commemorate a special person or event that do not harm wildlife or cause pollution. Here are some eco-friendly alternatives to a memorial balloon launch: light a candle or hold a candlelight vigil, blow bubbles, plant a tree, or float flowers on the water.
On behalf of all wildlife, please help spread the word. Thank you.
Quogue Wildlife Refuge
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One fine body…