Ahousaht youth are urging Tofino to ban balloon and lantern releases.
During a recent regular meeting, Tofino’s municipal council reviewed letters calling for the ban from Grade 7 Maaqtusiis Elementary School teacher Marcie Callewaert and her students.
Callewaert wrote that she was thrilled by Tofino’s recent efforts to remove plastic straws from the community and suggested balloons and lanterns should be next dangerous pollutants to be nixed.
“Both has disastrous outcomes for forests, wildlife and even our homes,” Callewaert wrote. “Chinese lanterns can cause wildfires and in some cases ignite whole buildings. The lanterns have also caused significant burns and even death for animals…the remains of the lantern fall to the ground or into the water as litter.”
She added balloons released during local celebrations quickly morph from visual delights to plastic pollution.
“Birds, turtles, pinnipeds and cetaceans can get caught and drown…Even biodegradable balloons can have a huge impact on animals and cause injury or death before they have a chance to degrade,” Callewaert wrote.
“A ban on balloon and lantern releases would continue to set the tune in Tofino as an environmentally friendly, green community. This move would set an amazing example and hopefully inspire other towns and cities around the world to make a positive change for the environment.”
After reviewing the letter, council unanimously approved a motion to direct its staff to look into the logistics of such a ban.
Coun. Dorothy Baert supported the idea.
“I’ve always been very concerned when I see balloons, particularly being used to promote sales or events and so forth because, once they’re out in the atmosphere and they float away, they end up in the gullets of birds. They’re just not a good thing to be out in space,” Baert said.
“I know they make people feel really good, my granddaughters love balloons, but it just always makes me feel very concerned for the wildlife.”
Coun. Greg Blanchette agreed.
“I always cringe when I see balloons being released because I know what happens once the 30 seconds of celebration is over,” he said.
“I’d say the problem is plastic debris in general and I would ask that staff look to the release of plastic items for celebration purposes.”
Blanchette also agreed with Callewaert’s sentiment that banning balloon releases would be a solid environmental statement for the district to make.
Coun. Ray Thorogood was the only councillor to express hesitancy towards the idea.
“I have no problem with staff looking at this. I think it’s a well-written letter and it brings up good points. However, I would not look forward to seeing a bylaw that prohibits these activities,” he said.