The Maine House gave its initial approval May 19, 2021,to a bill defining intentional balloon releases as an act of littering. LD 1023, sponsored by Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington, addresses an issue that fishermen have wrestled with under the radar for years. The vote was 83-64.

“Discarded balloons are one of the most common types of plastic that we see on the water,” said Rep. McDonald. “People may not realize they are littering, damaging ocean life and harming our livelihoods, but that’s exactly what is happening. I’m grateful my colleagues agree it’s time to define intentional balloon releases as an act of littering so that people know how they are affecting Maine fishermen and the marine ecosystem.” 

Data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that land-based animals, sea-based animals and animals that fly are all equally likely to mistake balloons for food, and then either eat it, choke on it or get fatally tangled in the attached string or ribbon. Balloons don’t break down over time, are not digestible and are the number one killer of seabirds

Rep. McDonald’s measure will be up for further votes in both the House and Senate in the coming weeks.

Rep. McDonald, House chair of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee and a member of the Marine Resources Committee, is serving her second term in the Maine House and represents the Cranberry Isles, Deer Isle, Frenchboro, Isle au Haut, North Haven, Southwest Harbor, Stonington, Swan’s Island, Tremont, Vinalhaven and Marshall Island Township.

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