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Paddleboarder's petition seeks a balloon ban to protect marine wildlife

Paddleboarder's petition seeks a balloon ban to protect marine wildlife
Laguna Beach resident Rich German often finds balloons such as this one from Valentine's Day during his ocean outings. He wants to ban the sale and release of balloons, which he said harm marine wildlife. (Rich German)

Not a day goes by that Rich German says he does not see a balloon floating on the ocean while paddleboarding off the Laguna Beach coastline.

He wants the Laguna Beach City Council to take notice.

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German, a Laguna resident, started a petition that seeks to ban the sale and release of balloons made of materials such as plastic and latex and filled with lighter-than-air gases such as helium.

"They don't biodegrade and sea lions tend to mistake balloons as food," said German, who garnered attention in 2015 for his videos of orcas off the Laguna coast. "I want people to be aware where they release balloons.

"I'm not a rule guy, but in this case we're needlessly harming sea life."

A group of boats drew stand-up paddler Rich German to venture 2 miles off the Laguna coastline, where he spotted a pod of orcas in 2015.
A group of boats drew stand-up paddler Rich German to venture 2 miles off the Laguna coastline, where he spotted a pod of orcas in 2015. (Rich German)

When ingested, balloons can block the marine animal's digestive tract and cause it to slowly starve to death, according to the petition.

As of Thursday the petition had 1,356 signatures.

German said he did not know how enforcement would be carried out with such a ban, but added that this would not be the first time a city has addressed balloon use.

Leaders of Nantucket, Mass., in 2015 passed a law that prohibits the sale or use of balloons filled with lighter-than-air gases such as helium, according to the Boston Globe.

The Globe story noted that some residents thought the law went a little too far, claiming that education about responsible use would be a better tactic to use.

German, an entrepreneur who founded the nonprofit Project O, whose mission is to restore and protect the ocean, called Laguna Beach Mayor Toni Iseman in hopes of getting it on a future council agenda.

Iseman could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Twitter: @AldertonBryce

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