Houghtaling & Downey Work to Protect Wildlife Threatened by Intentionally Released Balloons

OCEAN TOWNSHIP - Working to protect wildlife and marine animals from choking on or becoming entangled by helium balloons, Assemblymembers Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey are introducing legislation (A-5747) to prohibit the intentional release of lighter-than-air balloons, with offenders subject to a $500 fine per violation.

“Balloons filled with helium and other lighter-than-air gases make for great fun at parties, but if they’re not disposed of properly, they can post unnecessary risks to our environment,” said Houghtaling (D-Neptune). “Many animals, both on land and in the ocean, are attracted to their bright colors and can mistake them for food, causing severe injury or death. Many more animals become entangled by balloon strings, and can become injured or strangled to death as a result. Folks at the Jersey Shore have enjoyed balloons at celebrations and other events for decades, but it’s important that we do so responsibly, without littering or damaging the world around us.”

This bill is not intended to target children or others who accidentally release a balloon, although Houghtaling and Downey strongly encourage any person handling a balloon to be mindful of the harm it can do to the environment. Instead, this legislation is intended to prevent “planned releases” in which balloons are intentionally released into the environment as part of an event or other occasion.

“Municipalities across New Jersey, including our very own Asbury Park, have already banned the intentional release of these balloons, proving that this is a simple, common-sense step for protecting our local wildlife,” said Downey (D-Freehold). “By expanding these prohibitions statewide, we can clean up pollution and save countless animals from pointless, painful deaths.”

A full list of cities that have adopted ordinances prohibiting the intentional release of balloons inflated with lighter-than air gases includes Atlantic City, Asbury Park, Bradley Beach, Brigantine, Cape May City, Egg Harbor City, Long Beach Township, Longport Borough, Margate City, New Milford, North Wildwood, Sea Isle City, Somers Point, Upper Township, and Ventnor City.

This prohibition would not apply to a balloon released for scientific or meteorological purposes on behalf of a governmental agency or pursuant to a governmental contract, a hot air balloon that is recovered after launching, or a balloon that is released indoors and remains indoors.

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