Balloon Association challenge MCS marine impact claims –

Balloon Association challenge MCS marine impact claims Published:  10 July, 2006

THE Balloon Association today moved to refute claims by the Marine Conservation Society that balloons pose dangers to wildlife at sea.

They told Fishupdate that they had to respond to a conservation society statement as it had contained “factual errors” about balloons and their impact on the environment.

Last week, the the conservation society (MCS) launcheds a new awareness campaign to highlight what they described as the dangers of balloon releases for marine wildlife.

The ‘Don’t Let Go’ campaign aims, they said to discourage balloon releases, while suggesting more “environmentally friendly and fun” ways of using balloons.

The MCS said balloon litter floating at sea is known to be deadly for many marine wildlife species. Marine turtles and seabirds are particularly at risk, as they feed on prey that floats at the surface. They may mistake floating balloons for their jellyfish prey and swallow them, or become entangled in the attached ribbons and drown. Once swallowed, a balloon will block the digestive tract and eventually lead to death by starvation, they said. Other species, such as some whales, dolphins and fish are also known to have died as a result of eating balloons.

Mass balloon releases have been banned by authorities around the world, they went on, including some UK councils but the MCS receives an increasing number of calls each year from members of the public worried about the effects of local balloon releases. Despite the increase in public awareness of the harm balloons can have on wildlife, MCS annual marine litter surveys have revealed that the number of balloons and balloon pieces on Britain’s beaches has almost tripled over the last 10 years.

But Kate Walker administrator of the Balloon Association contended that it was important to set the record straight to stop Fishupdate readers continuing to spread the “myth” that balloons are harmful to sea life.

She went on: “There is absolutely no scientific evidence that a single latex balloon ever has caused the death of a single animal. The balloon industry and other researchers have spent considerable time investigating claims that balloons caused the death of animals. Even though none has held up, many small businesses throughout the country are being hurt financially by such erroneous claims.

“The balloons used for launches/releases are made of latex, a 100 percent natural material that comes from the liquid sap of the rubber tree. Latex is fully biodegradable and an inflated latex balloon decomposes at about the same rate as an oak leaf under similar conditions.

“When the balloons are released, most rise about five miles into the atmosphere and burst into pieces. These shreds, which are like tiny pieces of spaghetti, float back to earth over a wide area. Common sense, and personal experience, suggests that the small size and wide scattering of these pieces would not affect marine life.

“Moreover, during a UK wide beach clean & survey report conducted by the Marine Conservation Society in 2000 it was found that balloons only represented 0.4 percent of the total found. Covering over 104 km of shoreline, 1378 volunteers collected almost 185,482 items. Balloons only accounted for 6.5 items per km.,way down the list of items collected.

“In fact, animals are exposed daily to numerous hazards much more dangerous than balloons, including fishing line, plastic, automobile exhaust and even windows. A Cornell University study said that 95 million birds are killed annually by flying into closed windows.

“I don’t think anyone would suggest we remove all windows to protect the world’s bird population!

“We certainly are keenly interested in protecting our wildlife, but in doing so, we should focus on activities that produce meaningful results rather than on symbolic gestures.” is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.