Friday, September 10, 2010

Balloons Can Harm Wildlife

On a day when the ocean was incredibly clear and beautiful, local boaters spotted this bunch of balloons floating. Imagine the damage the balloons could have done! The boaters were not pleased. (Thanks to Cora for permission to use this photo.

With the start of football season, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued a press release to remind event organizers and other Floridians about a law prohibiting the release of more than nine lighter-than-air balloons within a 24-hour period.

Balloons released in Florida almost inevitably end up in the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean. Wildlife, especially sea turtles, mistake balloons for food, and strings attached to balloons can entangle birds and other animals. The release into the atmosphere of large numbers of balloons inflated with lighter-than-air gases poses a danger and nuisance to the environment, particularly to wildlife and marine animals, according to Florida Statute 379.233, passed in 1989. The law provides for a $250 fine for violations.

There are exceptions for scientific or meteorological balloons released by a government agency or under government contract, hot air balloons that are recovered after launching, and balloons released indoors. The law also allows for the release of balloons that are biodegradable or photodegradable under FWC rules. Since 1989, the FWC has received only one such balloon design for review, and that balloon was not approved.

Obviously balloons are popular at outdoor events, including store openings and children's parties. It's up to all of us to make sure that the balloons are not released, but instead are disposed of properly to safeguard the environment and our animal friends.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Watch Out for Manatees!

Boaters, when you head out on the state’s waterways during the Labor Day weekend, please be extra cautious and obey manatee speed zone signs!
During warm weather, manatees move throughout Florida’s estuaries and rivers, and along the shore line, canals and basins all over the state. Boaters can help keep manatees safe by following a few simple guidelines: Stay in marked channels, wear polarized sunglasses to improve visibility below the water surface and obey posted boat-speed zones. Using poles, paddles or trolling motors when in close proximity to manatees and having someone onboard scan the water when under way can go a long way to protecting manatees from harm.
Boaters should scan the water near or in front of the boat – looking for a repetitive line of half-moon swirls – sometimes called a manatee footprint – or a trail or a snout or fluke (tail) breaking the water’s surface.
As of Aug. 20, 58 manatees have died in 2010 from watercraft strikes. With a little extra care, we can hopefully keep that number from increasing!
If you see a manatee in distress or a dead manatee, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).