Balloon ban proposed to protect sea turtles

Would ban helium balloon sales

ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. – May is the start of sea turtle nesting season and one St. Augustine Beach attorney has requested the sale of balloons in the community be banned.

The proposed ban centers around helium balloons commonly bought in stores. If ingested, the balloons can be deadly to sea turtles, according to wildlife experts.

A state law already forbids releasing 10 or more balloons at a time, however, this ordinance would go a step further in targeting vendors to protect the turtles.

"We have problems, not just with the sea turtles mistaking the balloons for jellyfish, which is their primary food source. But also the ribbons that are attached to the balloons or the little plastic anchors that can suffocate or strangle," said Jane West, the attorney proposing the ordinance.

West is also the Planning and Zoning Board Chairperson and is asking the city to ban the sale of these balloons. This would apply to two business in St. Augustine Beach: Publix and Dollar General Tree.

"This would not contemplate giving tickets to people on the beach who had balloons. It would just go to the source, the vendors," said West.

The fee for violating the ordinance would be a $500 dollar fine per balloon. It also puts additional requirements on people seeking to hold events on the beach that would normally need permits. They would be required to sign paperwork verifying that helium balloons would not be there.

West said several local wildlife protection groups and other city leaders are on board with the idea.

She said, "we are environmental stewards and so I think this ordinance is in line with our values."

The city is expected to further discuss the proposal sometime in July.



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