A Change.Org petition that would prohibit the release of balloons outside on Aquidneck Island has already gathered more than 400 signatures.

Started by Clean Ocean Access, the petition states that “prohibiting the release of balloons outside on Aquidneck Island will further promote our island-wide environmental stewardship and attract more visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of the place we call home. The ordinance will allow for (1) clear signage to be included in existing signage at shoreline locations to inform residents and visitors, and (2) require that all retail establishments selling helium balloons to post clear signage that releasing balloons outside are illegal. The ordinance should exclude balloons used for scientific purposes, hot-air balloons, and indoor release of balloons.”

Clean Ocean Access says that they will deliver the petition to Newport City Council, Portsmouth Town Council and Middletown Town Council after obtaining at least 1,000 signatures. There have currently been no ordinances or resolutions pertaining to ballon releases introduced by Newport City Council.

“Clean Ocean Access has removed 2,195 balloons from the shoreline of Aquidneck since 2013. Releasing balloons have been associated with celebrations and memorials, but there is real negative impact of intentionally sending plastic into the atmosphere – It kills wildlife, pollutes the earth and wastes helium. There are no economic benefits of releasing balloons, it causes environmental harm to the ocean and must be stopped”, the petition states.

“Sea turtles mistake them for jellyfish and ingest them and die. Balloons travel long distances and create unintended environmental consequences. They are made of plastic and take a long time to degrade, likely breaking into small pieces of plastic, absorbing toxins, and ingested by fish and leading to bioaccumulation. Besides the balloon, itself, the ribbons are also made of plastic and lead to entanglement of seabirds, and become entangled with seaweed. Large clumps of seaweed on our shoreline are often found with balloon ribbons and fishing line, and collectively these accumulate more debris” the petition goes on to state.

Clean Ocean Access is also currently working with all Aquidneck Island communities to band single-use plastic bags, and also has plans to tighten the availability of plastic single-use straws.

When America’s Cup released hundreds of balloons in Gothenburg last August, Newport-based Sailors For The Sea reacted with a blog post encouraging folks to keep pressure on the America’s Cup to ‘keep the cup clean’ and shared the following tidbit that also happens to support this effort and research by Clean Ocean Access;

“What goes up, must come down. Sea turtles, whales, birds and 267 other sea creatures are known to have suffered from ingestion or entanglement from plastic debris in the ocean.Researchers from Queensland recently found that in one study, 78% of the plastic recovered from a sample of sea turtles came from eating balloons”

At the Volvo Ocean Race Newport Stopover in May of 2015; balloons, fireworks, straws, styrofoam and single-use plastic water bottles were banned.

Also at the Stopover, those working to ensure sustainability were able to divert 60% of the waste from entering the landfill and they organized cleanups before, during (with a 250 member green team) and after to ensure that Fort Adams State Park would be cleaner after the event than before.

For more information on the petition, visit No More Balloon Releases.

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).