AUGUSTA — The Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hold a public hearing on a bill to define intentional balloon releases as an act of littering.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington, addresses an issue that fishermen have wrestled with under the radar for years.
“Discarded balloons are one of the most common types of plastic that we see on the water,” said McDonald. “People may not realize they are littering, damaging ocean life and harming our livelihoods, but that’s exactly what is happening. 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.”
The public hearing on LD 1023 will take place on Monday, March 29 at 10 a.m. Members of the public sign up to testify at mainelegislature.org/testimony or can view the public hearing on the committee’s YouTube page.
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, according to a news release.
Balloons don’t break down over time, are not digestible and are the number one killer of seabirds, the release noted.
In the days following the public hearing, the committee will hold a work session and potential vote on McDonald’s measure.
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.