No Balloon Release Australia is sending out a plea for boat owners and operators to not use balloons as decorations.

“Balloons are among the top marine debris items found in our waterways and they are listed as a priority threat for marine wildlife in the EPA’s Marine Debris Threat And Risk Assessment” said spokesperson, Karen Joynes. “This means we should all be ensuring balloons are not released, and if air filled, not lost on windy days or through boat movement” she added.“We’ve received many reports that balloons are used on boats as decorations, notably on Sydney Harbour and Botany Bay, and we also receive reports about balloon litter from boats. Not only is the litter unsightly, sadly, this puts wildlife such as turtles and penguins at risk of injury or death from ingesting the balloon or entanglement in the ribbons and ties” explained Ms Joynes.

There was great concern when ‘Billie’ was seen trying to eat a balloon, as another turtle, ‘Ella’, rescued at Manly, was in care for months, recovering from eating a balloon with a 2.5 metre ribbon.No Balloon Release Australia was formed in 2016 to lobby state, territory and federal governments for a uniform national ban on releasing balloons, and regulation on the sale and use of helium for inflating balloons, to stop releases at the source. However, since then it has become obvious that littered air and water filled balloons are also contributing to the marine debris problem.

“The Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) Database shows over 22,000 balloons and balloon related accessories were collected from beaches between 2017 and 2022, so there is no question balloons are a litter problem” said Ms Joynes.

Recent research demonstrated that latex balloons do not biodegrade, and cannot be recycled, so they are considered single use plastic. If not disposed of properly, they are also considered “problematic” plastic.

Mylar and foil balloons are obviously plastic and break up into micro and nano plastics which can impact the entire marine ecosystem.

While boat owners and operators would no doubt be vigilant about preventing any garbage going overboard, balloons can easily be blown free. Please, do not use balloons on boats.