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Lantern and balloon release ban can safeguard wildlife

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

LanternA ban on the outdoor release of sky lanterns and helium balloonswill safeguard wildlife, combat litter and prevent avoidable fires.

The Sky Lanterns and Balloons Prohibition Bill 2020 gained Royal Assent in July and means the sale and supply of the Chinse style lanterns – including online sales - is illegal.

It also prohibits the outdoor release of lanterns and helium filled balloons – with the exception of weather balloons – and means anyone doing so faces a fine of up to £500.

The Private Members’ Bill was introduced by Martyn Perkins MHK and has been welcomed by farmers, environmental and wildlife groups and the emergency services.

It has also been fully supported by the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture as it will safeguard wildlife, reduce litter including single-use plastic in the countryside and protect the Biosphere.

Mr Perkins, said:

“Lanterns and balloons can entertain us briefly when they take off, but are an absolute disaster for wildlife, farm animals and marine life, when they come back down.

“Although the sale of sky lanterns has been prohibited here since 2015, these new legal powers go way beyond that and it is great news for our precious Biosphere.”

The legislation means the Island has moved ahead of the UK and joins countries such as Australia, Brazil and Germany in tackling the issue.

Leigh Morris, CEO of MWT, said:

“It is a positive step which will play an important part in protecting the Manx countryside, of which 88% is agricultural land.

“The danger these items can pose to wildlife, particularly in the marine environment, is significant and undebatable. It’s excellent that our IOM Biosphere is leading the way and this ban is great news for Manx Nature.”

Kevin Groom, Chief Fire Officer at the Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service (IoMFRS), said:

“Once released there is no way of knowing where a lantern will end up or what danger it might cause. You wouldn’t light a naked flame in your home and walk away, so why would you send one into the air with no idea whose home or habitat it could eventually destroy?”

In 2014, the Manx National Farmers’ Union (MNFU) was amongst the first groups on the Island to call for them to be made illegal after a cow died from swallowing lantern wire.

Tim Johnston, MNFU President, said:

“Not only are they a serious fire hazard but they can also cause suffering to innocent animals through ingestion, entanglement and entrapment.”

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