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'I didn't think it was real': Biologist shocked at video showing yacht crew popping balloons, letting them fall in the water

Balloons often become trash that kill other animals if they mistake the balloons or pieces of balloon for food. It's potentially deadly for marine life

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla — A video is making a lot of Floridians and nature lovers upset.

It shows people on a yacht popping balloons and letting them fall into the water in Biscayne Bay.

Charges and fines against the boat crew are totaling $25,000.

"At first, I didn’t think it was real," Natural Sciences Associate Professor Ed McGinley was shocked people in the video did not recognize -- or didn't care -- about the harm done to the water and its animals.

Balloons, that are also often released to celebrate someone’s life, eventually become trash that kill other animals if they mistake the balloons or pieces of balloons for food.

"The animals can’t digest them or it will create a blockage in their intestines so they can’t pass waste out, so they’ll essentially starve," McGinley said. 

A balloon floating in the water can look like a jellyfish which is a yummy meal for a sea turtle. Hundreds of plastic pieces were found in baby sea turtles’ stomachs in southern St. Johns County in a matter of months.

It is illegal in Florida to release more than 10 balloons in an 24 hours, and various local governments in northeast Florida have passed even tougher local laws against balloon releases.

However, people still release the balloons. 

Some labelling on balloons indicates they are "biodegradable" and environmentally friendly. However, McGinley warns: don’t be so sure.

"The issue is they can biodegrade, but it takes potentially years," McGinley said. "And it’s what happens between the release and the biodegrading  that becomes the issue." He means that animals may eat or get caught up in the balloons and ribbons. 

There are other ways to honor someone’s life without polluting such as planting a tree or a memorial garden.

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