Save seabirds by swapping balloons for bubbles

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Port Phillip Council is encouraging schools, businesses, residents and visitors to swap balloons for bubbles to help protect vulnerable wildlife and the environment.

A motion supporting Zoos Victoria’s campaign against balloon use outdoors (and extending the pledge to relevant indoor events) was adopted at last night’s Council meeting.

“As Zoos Victoria’s campaign says, ‘when balloons fly, seabirds die’. Australian seabirds are particularly vulnerable to starvation and death after swallowing balloons and their attachments. They can also become distressed after being entangled,” Mayor Bernadene Voss said.

“Under the pledge, we will set an example by not allowing any balloons (helium or non-helium) at functions and festivals directly delivered by Council,” Cr Voss said.

Helium balloons, which inevitably end up as litter when released outdoors, will not be allowed at events held on Port Phillip Council property – or funded or permitted by Council.

Non-helium balloons will be discouraged through changes to event permit and grant application conditions to be identified in a review. It is envisaged balloons won’t be allowed at large events while organisers of small events will be strongly encouraged to use alternatives.

Cr Voss said Council wanted to achieve balloon-waste reduction through education, rather than enforcement.

“We are not sending out Council Officers to fine people as we want to try a partnership approach. As a seaside Council, we love the campaign’s call to save seabirds by blowing bubbles rather than using or releasing balloons. Flags, bunting, candles and tree plantings are other ways of commemorating or celebrating an event without putting wildlife at risk of death.

“We acknowledge that small community events and celebrations are often run by volunteers without access to the same event planning resources enjoyed by organisers of large corporate events and we are very happy to assist by suggesting festive alternatives to balloons.”

Vice-president of BeachPatrol Australia and co-leader of BeachPatrol 3207, Ross Headifen, said a recently completed litter survey by the volunteer environmental group underlined the urgent need to protect Port Phillip Bay and its wildlife from plastics including balloon-related waste.

“Over the 12 months to March 27 this year, we found 743 balloons and balloon strings on a 35 metre stretch of Port Melbourne beach. After taking wind direction into account, our model estimates that figure rises to 2.2 million items of balloon litter over the Bay’s entire foreshore during that timeframe,” Mr Headifen said.

“Port Phillip Council is to be highly commended for taking a leading position on this important issue. Many other places around the world are imposing restrictions or discouraging balloon releases as balloons and their strings are so dangerous to wildlife, particularly marine life which can mistake them for food or become fatally entangled.”

For more information about Zoos Victoria’s campaign, including how schools can receive a free support pack to hold balloon-smart events, go to zoo.org.au.

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