Historic City News watched today’s meeting of the St Johns County Commission, as they considered and adopted in a unanimous vote to join the State of Florida in prohibiting the release of helium, foil, mylar, biodegradable or photodegradable balloons, establishing a maximum fine of $500.
The State of Florida already has a ban on balloon releases. Anyone in violation of the state ban faces a fine of $250. The ban in St Johns County includes a ban on the release of sky lanterns, often done during “celebration of life” ceremonies in memory of a lost loved one.
“Thousands of balloons are pulled from waterways and the coast each year,” according to an Environmental Protection Agency report. “Animals become entangled in the attached string and this becomes deadly to sea birds, sea turtles and marine mammals.”
The board considers the release a form of litter, and dangerous to the environment and wildlife that may ingest them. The St Johns County ordinance says that animals, such as sea turtles, mistake the remains from balloons as food.
The City of St Augustine Beach issued its own ban on balloon releases in August 2021. Other beach communities have adopted their own ordinances to raise awareness of the danger to all forms of marine life. Flagler Beach recently issued a ban on the release of balloons, and, in March 2020, the city commission in Atlantic Beach approved the most aggressive ban on balloon release so far in our area, assessing fines up to $1,250. Previously, Fernandina Beach unanimously approved a balloon release ban in August 2019. The fine for violations there is $100.