Balloongate – America’s Cup Balloons Highlight Serious Issue

The America’s Cup is arguably the most prestigious, glamorous and well-funded ocean event in the world.

What an opportunity the Cup has to highlight the importance of keeping our oceans clean.

Unfortunately, the America’s Cup blew it by allowing balloons to blow.

As we point out at Clean Up Oceans, plastic – and balloons in particular – are one of the largest problems facing our oceans.

When we mention this to our friends, some say, “Balloons, come on, really?”

There are studies from around the world on this subject but, keeping it local to our New England coastline, below is a chart from the Blue Ocean Society, which has been collecting ocean debris data from whale-watching ships for the past 11 years.

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What does the largest orange slice of the trash pie represent? Balloons.

Not only do the totals over the entire 11 year period rank balloons at the top of the heap, every year since 2005 balloons have been the most collected form of ocean debris. The full report can be found at the following University of New Hampshire Marine Debris Project, which is funded by NOAA.

I don’t necessarily expect land lovers to know about ocean trash issues but sailors, who have a great love of the sea and are out on the water, can see the problem for themselves.

This is what makes the America’s Cup balloon release so disturbing.

Well known sailing organizations such as Sailors for the Sea and the Volvo Ocean Race have been highlighting the problem of balloons for years.  At the recent Volvo Ocean Race stop over in Newport, balloons and other major contributors to ocean trash like single use plastic bottles were banned.

Last month, publications like IRIS picked up our Keep The America’s Cup Clean post and helped spread the word.  Others, such as Balloons Blow, Sailors for the Sea and Scuttlebut Sailing News have also reported on the problem.

The good news is that this spreading of the word, including tweets like the one below, has gotten the attention of the Cup (thanks again IRIS, Doug and Tom).

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America’s Cup posted the following response on their Facebook page saying that the “balloon release should not have happened.” They also said they would “put processes in place… to ensure this will not happen again.”

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On the one hand, YAHOO!

Small actions by many made a difference.

On the other, it is not great that in the statement above, the America’s Cup said that the “balloons were made from natural latex” that “biodegrades in sunlight and seawater.”

As our friends at Balloons Blow have reported in detail, latex balloons are not biodegradable (please click  here for more information and see the 3 year “balloon still there” picture below).

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It’s still hard to comprehend how the America’s Cup would have allowed a balloon release, and then made a false claim while making a promise to “ensure this will not happen again.”

Hopefully what some are now calling “Balloongate” will highlight that balloon releases cause long-term harm and will become a catalyst for future change.

Please remember that small actions do make an impact, and help us spread the word and Clean Up Oceans!


Preston McSwain can be found during the day working as the Managing Partner and Founder at Fiduciary Wealth Partners.  To see more of his posts about his day job, investments, and on issues such as clean oceans, and education, connect with him through the following social media links:


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