People join up to stop release of 15,000 balloons

By Sheena Amos

RAS AL KHAIMAH 22 February 2019: When it comes to protecting the marine environment, it certainly takes a community to generate change. That’s why it was so gratifying to see that over 15,000 balloons were prevented from being released in Ras Al Khaimah due to community members rallying together and informing the authorities and the organizers of the impact of balloons on the environment.

Beach litter surveys have shown the amount of balloons and balloon pieces found on the beach have tripled in the past 10 years.

While some balloons burst, others just gradually deflate. But they all fall back down to Earth where they can wreak havoc on wildlife on land, sea, and air.

Dolphins, whales, turtles, and many other marine species, as well as terrestrial animals such as cows, dogs, sheep, tortoises, birds and other animals have all been hurt or killed by balloons. The animal is usually killed from the balloon blocking its digestive tract, leaving them unable to take in any more nutrients. It slowly starves to death. The animals can also become entangled in the balloon and its ribbon making the animal unable to move or eat.

Especially at Risk

Sea turtles are particularly at risk because they naturally prey on jellyfish, which balloons can easily be mistaken for.

Balloons can take years to break down, even the so-called “biodegradable” latex ones. This provides plenty of time for them to travel and encounter many animals that may mistake them for a snack, or accidentally get entangled in them.

Since the first 12 months of its inception, community members have alerted the marine conservation organization, Azraq, of all types of marine conservation concerns, and wherever possible Azraq has endeavored to alert the relevant authorities of the issues that threaten the marine environment. .

Natalie Banks, Managing Director of Azraq, who oversees various initiatives regarding marine conservation including a #balloonsblow campaign, thanked both the community and the authorities for their cooperation and timeliness in protecting the marine environment.

UAE Praised

“While protecting the environment can sometimes feel overwhelming regarding the amount of global issues the planet is facing, the concerned entities in the United Arab Emirates are genuinely care and are taking positive steps to protect the environment for future generations,” Ms Banks said.

The step taken by the Ras Al Khaimah authorities and the organizers of the balloon release, highlights the important role that the community has in bringing forth their concerns about the environment.

Government organizations are also instrumental in stopping marine life and the environment from degenerating. Azraq, who has a authority from the Community Development Authority in Dubai to operate, contacted both the Ras Al Khimah Environmental Protection Development Authority (EPDA) and the Ras Al Khaimah Waste Management Agency team with their concerns about the balloon release. The Tourism Development Authority was also informed of the matter by the Waste Management Agency. The government agencies handled the community’s concern with extreme urgency. . In fact, it was only about an hour after raising their concerns, that Azraq heard that the balloon release had been canceled by Dr. Saif al Ghais, Executive Director of EPDA.