More than 80% of baby seabirds on Lord Howe Island have ingested rubbish, with balloons and their attachments one of the most identifiable items.

We love balloons but when they're used outdoors, they can end up in waterways and oceans around Australia, harming precious wildlife.


The CSIRO (2016) recently outlined balloons to be in the top three most harmful pollutants threatening marine wildlife. Every day balloons are released or accidentally escape from outdoor events where they almost definitely end up in waterways and the ocean where they can be mistaken by wildlife for food.

Promise to blow bubbles, not balloons at your next outdoor event.

Balloon clips and plastic removed from a Flesh-footed shearwater at Lord Howe Island. Source: Ian Hutton
Balloon clips and plastic removed from a Flesh-footed shearwater at Lord Howe Island. Source: Ian Hutton

Case Study

Year after year balloon-related waste is one of the most prevalent and identifiable items found in the stomachs of Flesh-footed Shearwater chicks on the Australia's Lord Howe Island. 

In many cases, adult birds are feeding their chicks this rubbish thinking it is food. Baby birds are often found underweight and starving and can die before ever leaving the nest.

Bubble blowing is not just for kids...
Bubble blowing is not just for kids...

Measuring the impact of this campaign

With help from our partners we will monitor the prevalence of balloons and their attachments ending up on beaches and in the stomachs of shearwater chicks over time.
We aim to observe the eventual elimination of balloons and their attachments in the environment.

Meet the seabirds most affected by balloons

Flesh-footed Shearwaters - near threatened

These migratory birds breed in colonies, with one of their main colonies found on Lord Howe Island. Here their numbers are in decline due to mistakenly ingesting rubbish and even feeding it to their chicks.

Short-tailed Shearwaters

Short-tailed Shearwaters are one of the few migratory birds that come to Australia to breed on Phillip Island. Both parents feed their chicks when they return from foragng at sea, and the shearwaters remain on the island until April, when the fledglings are strong enough to start the 15,000 km flight back to Alaska.

Planning a balloon-free event?

Whether it’s your school fete, sports carnival, market or party, you can make it balloon-free. You can make your next outdoor event seabird safe by switching balloons with one of these wildlife-friendly alternatives.

  • Bubbles
  • Paper balloons
  • Bunting
  • Flags or banners
  • Kites
  • Candles
  • Floating flowers
  • Planting a tree


For more information on the When Balloons Fly campaign contact:

Ben Sanders

Senior Manager Conservation Campaigns
Phone(03) 9340 2724