St. Johns County commission bans balloon and sky lantern releases

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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The St. Johns County commission voted 5-0 Tuesday to ban balloon and lantern releases, usually done in memory of people or events. The ordinance states “the release of helium, foil, mylar, biodegradable or photodegradable balloons and sky lanterns into the atmosphere has a deleterious effect on the environment when the balloons inevitably deflate or the sky lanterns land.” The fine in St. Johns County would be a maximum of $500.

The board considers this a form of litter, and dangerous to the environment and wildlife that may ingest them. The ordinance says that animals, such as sea turtles, mistake the remains from balloons as food. Animals become entangled in the string and this becomes deadly to sea birds, sea turtles and marine mammals. An Environmental Protection Agency report shows thousands of balloons are pulled from waterways and the coast.

The state of Florida already has a ban on balloon releases. Anyone in violation of the state ban faces a fine of $250.

Other local communities also have balloon release bans on the books.

Flagler beach recently issued its own ban. St. Augustine issued a ban on balloon releases in August, 2021.

Atlantic Beach commissioners approved the ban in March, 2020. A violation of the ordinance there could cost violators up to $1,250.

In August, 2019, Fernandina Beach unanimously approved a balloon release ban. The fine there for violations is $100.