bursting bubbles

Galveston punishes popular tradition with $200 fine to protect wildlife

Galveston punishes popular tradition with fine to protect wildlife

balloon beach release woman galveston
Doing this can now cost you $200 in Galveston. Photo by Getty Images

In an effort to stem the wave of environmental damage caused by often well-meaning celebrations and traditions, Galveston has banned the release of balloons by residents and visitors,  the city recently announced.

Under this new ordinance, intentionally releasing a balloon outdoors is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by an up to $200 fine.

The move comes as earlier this month, Galveston city council unanimously voted in favor of an amendment to the city’s litter ordinance by adding regulations prohibiting the intentional release of balloons.

One exception to the ordinance is the release of balloons on behalf of a governmental agency for scientific or meteorological purposes.

Often done in memoriam for funerals or celebration for birthdays or gender reveals, balloon releases can be devastating to area wildlife and the environment. National studies reveal that balloons are among the top three most harmful pollutants threatening marine wildlife but that they also endanger domestic animals such as cattle, dogs, and sheep.

Seabirds are most at risk, as the animals mistake the deflated balloons for jellyfish or squid and are eaten. Birds cannot digest the balloons and with their stomach clogged, they die of starvation. 

Choking is also a threat, and the ribbons or strings attached to balloons can entangle and even strangulate birds. These balloon materials can also be used to build nests and thus endanger hatchlings.

Meanwhile, mylar balloons can take years to decompose, posing threats to surroundings and animals.

For more on the Galveston ordinance can be found here.

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