Once again, the Aquarium is joining forces with Maryland's House Environment Subcommittee to introduce “Inky legislation,” a bill that seeks to ban balloon releases and help reduce marine debris.
The bill did not pass on its first attempt earlier in the year but will come up again for a vote in March 2005.
Applying only to the release of 20 or more balloons, the legislation will be incorporated into the existing litter law in effect throughout the state.
Members of the community are invited to join us in an e-mail campaign to show support for the bill.
Inky, the legislation's namesake, is a one-year old pygmy sperm whale that stranded Thanksgiving Day, 1993. The Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) and medical staff performed six endoscopies, removing more than three square feet of plastic from her intestines.
The largest object removed was a Mylar balloon. Inky was lucky – after a six-month rehabilitation period she was released back into the ocean. Most animals impacted by marine debris die at sea, their deaths uncounted.
Bursting the Bubble
How big of a problem do balloons pose? Consider:
- Balloon releases are one of the most blatant ways in which plastics are introduced into the marine environment. Although balloon releases frequently occur as part of a celebration, their effects are detrimental to wildlife. Balloons often rise approximately 5 miles into the air, burst, and return to land or sea in small pieces that are easily consumed by wildlife.
- Approximately 50% of the animals cared for by MARP are sick or injured due to human actions, including boat strikes, entanglement in nets, and ingestion of marine debris.
- Nationally, plastics account for most of the trash removed during water and shore cleanups. In the Baltimore area, plastics make up 94.3% of marine debris.
- More than 265 species of birds, fishes, mammals, and marine turtles, including endangered and threatened species, are at risk of ingesting marine debris.
- Other animals routinely found to have ingested balloons include dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles, leatherback turtles, and blue sharks.
The Effect of the Bill
The legislation, supported by the Aquarium, aims to create a healthier ocean for marine life by fining any person who throws, deposits, releases, or discharges 20 or more balloons into the atmosphere within the state of Maryland.
By enacting this legislation, Maryland will follow a trend set in five other states that have outlawed balloon releases and protected the well-being of land and marine wildlife: California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, and Virginia. The Town of Ocean City, Maryland also enacted a balloon release law in 1997.
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