Call for ban on balloons as wildlife deaths spike

DITCH helium balloons for the sake of our wildlife, a leading central Queensland scientist has urged.

Deaths are ballooning from the party favourites as they suffocate turtles and other ocean dwellers across the region.

CQU marine scientist Dr Scott Wilson said it was time to pop the problem.

There's little local laws officers can do and the Gladstone Region Council has ruled out banning the deadly decorations.

Sunshine Coast Council banned the release of helium balloons about five years ago.

Keep Australia Beautiful began advocating for their eradication last year.

Dr Wilson urged Gladstone residents to think of the impact they had on wildlife.

Dr Wilson said hungry marine animals suffered deadly stomach blockages from eating deflated balloons, which they mistook for food.

"Helium balloons keep floating until they burst from the pressure and then they fall to land, directly in to the water," he said.

"They'll wash with a rain event into the storm water, into the creeks and then into the ocean.

"Balloons are not the problem - it's the fact that they get away in to the environment.

MV Party Hire's Annabel Green said the business sold thousands of balloons each year.

"Some people come in and want 50 balloons," she said.

She said customers were encouraged to dispose of them safely.

"When we hear that people want to release them at funerals, we steer them away from foil balloons," Ms Green said.

"Our latex balloons are environmentally friendly and are made from 100 per cent rubber latex.

"It's the plastic clips and the metallic string people use that are the problem.

Gladstone Regional Council's Environment portfolio spokesman Col Chapman said there was little that could be done about the problem under local laws.

Cr Chapman said the use of helium balloons at events was not prohibited.

He said the council did not permit the intentional release of balloons at events hosted in city parks, reserves and cemeteries.

"The release of helium balloons is considered litter under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 but council's enforcement options for this type of litter are limited under this legislation," Cr Chapman said.

Rather than use legislation, Cr Chapman said council appealed to the public's common sense when it came to the use of helium balloons.

"Being a region so entwined with the marine environment, it is important to raise awareness within the community about the negative effects helium balloons can have on the marine environment," Cr Chapman said.

"Deflated helium balloons can enter the marine ecosystem and, if ingested, cause stomach blockages and starvation in marine life and floating syndrome in turtles with balloon strings also capable of strangling birds."

Cr Chapman said helium balloons were made from latex which, and although biodegradable, could take years to break down.

"Council has no intention to ban the sale of helium balloons, however we encourage members of the community to act responsibly."



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