ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH — May is the start of sea turtle nesting season and one St. Augustine Beach attorney has requested the sale of balloons in the community be banned.
The proposed ban centers around helium balloons commonly bought in stores. If ingested, the balloons can be deadly to sea turtles, according to wildlife experts.
West is also the Planning and Zoning Board Chairperson and is asking the city to ban the sale of these balloons. This would apply to two business in St. Augustine Beach: Publix and Dollar Tree.
"We have problems, not just with the sea turtles mistaking the balloons for jellyfish, which is their primary food source. But also the ribbons that are attached to the balloons or the little plastic anchors that can suffocate or strangle," said Jane West, the attorney proposing the ordinance.
"This would not contemplate giving tickets to people on the beach who had balloons. It would just go to the source, the vendors."
West said several local wildlife protection groups and other city leaders are on board with the idea.The fee for violating the ordinance would be a $500 per balloon. It also puts additional requirements on people seeking to hold events on the beach that would normally need permits. They would be required to sign paperwork verifying that helium balloons would not be there.
"We are environmental stewards and so I think this ordinance is in line with our values," West said.
The city is expected to further discuss the proposal sometime in July.