OCEAN CITY — With the summer-long effort to retrieve and collect potentially harmful balloons from the ocean heading into its final stretch, the Town of Ocean City started talking about how to honor the young siblings that created the successful project.
Back in June, local brother and sister Josh Blume, 12, and Emily Blumer, 10, launched a months-long contest for offshore boaters and fishermen to collect the balloons often found floating in the ocean. The idea was borne after the children learned from their father, charter boat captain Luke Blume, that offshore vessels often come across colorful mylar and plastic balloons floating in the water which are harmful to marine life that mistake them for food.
To that end, Josh and Emily Blume created “Blume’s Balloon Round-Up,” a contest that encourages boaters and fishermen to retrieve balloons and report their “catches” daily from June 29 to September 30 with prize packages on the line for the winners. The resort’s fishing community quickly embraced the concept and have been enthusiastically pulling balloons from the ocean all summer, reporting their catches and displaying the balloons as proudly as they fly their release flags.
The goal at the outset was to retrieve 1,000 balloons in the first year and the Blume’s Balloon Round-Up blew past that objective in the last week or so. On Wednesday alone, five offshore vessels reported collecting 15 more balloons bringing the total to 1,240 with a few weeks remaining in the challenge.
During Tuesday’s Mayor and Council meeting, Councilman Dennis Dare suggested the Coastal Resources Legislative Committee, or Green Team, begin exploring an ordinance prohibiting celebratory balloon launches in Ocean City.
“I just read where the University of Tennessee has joined towns all across the country in making releasing balloons illegal,” he said. “We live on an island and I’m not sure we have anything on the books to prevent that.”
Councilman and Green Team chair Tony DeLuca said the committee has been focusing on other pollution sources including its drinking straw campaign, but could certainly explore the balloon release issue.
“We’re really focused on things that are going on in this town like the straws and Styrofoam, but we can certainly put this on our agenda,” he said.
Councilman Wayne Hartman said he has seen first-hand the impact of balloon pollution and urged the council to recognize the efforts of the Blume kids.
“When you’re offshore, it really is unbelievable how many balloons you see floating out there,” he said. “Those siblings organized that program and they’ve collected over 1,000 balloons. I think we need to bring them in here and recognize their efforts for raising awareness.”