British Columbia

Music festival pops idea of using balloons after decorations found in eco reserve

Whale-watching guide Tristan Ray-Wilks says he picked seven balloons out of the waters near Race Rocks Ecological Reserve from the Phillips Backyard Weekender this week. Organizers say it won't happen again.

Phillips Backyard Weekender says no more balloons after whale-watching guide pulls bunch from water

Don't let go of those! A B.C. whale-watching guide is highlighting the ecological impact of balloons that get loose and find their way into the ocean. (Shutterstock/jakkapan)

Organizers of the recent Phillips Backyard Weekender say they will no longer use balloons after a whale-watching guide picked a bunch of the decorations out of sensitive whale habitat last week.

Tristan Ray-Wilks says this week he picked seven balloons out of the waters near Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, at the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island, but it's not the first time he's picked garbage out of the ocean.

"Your heart sort of crunches a bit, because that's the last thing you want to see from a local operation," Ray-Wilks told All Points West host Robyn Burns of his reaction to seeing the event-branded balloons.

Ray-Wilks says balloons are a particular problem in the waters, and picking them out, sometimes 20 at a time, is a daily occurrence as he takes passengers whale watching.

"When they see these animals, and they see they're feeding in this area, they can see firsthand how this trash ends up in their digestive system," he said.

'It's unfortunate. It was an oversight'

Ray-Wilks shared a photo of the Phillips Backyard Weekender-branded balloons, which drew the attention of organizers who said the release of them was not intentional.

Dimitri Demers with Atomic Productions says organizers weren't aware of the negative impacts of plastic helium balloons, but social media pressure got them to act.

"It's unfortunate. It was an oversight on our behalf," Demers said. "Now we're not using balloons, helium or otherwise, moving forward."

"I'm sure we'll find many, many other ways to make our festivals festive."

Ray-Wilks is applauding the decision.

"I was completely blown. That's the exact reaction anyone could've asked for," he said.

Ray-Wilks went on to say he'd like to see a complete ban on helium balloons in the area.

"We're at a level of sophistication in our day and age that we can understand the effect of what happens when you release a balloon into the atmosphere," he said.

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West

To hear the interview with whale-watching guide Tristan Ray-Wilks, click the audio labelled: Whale-watching guide on the impact of plastic balloons

To hear the interview with event organizer Dimitri Demers, click the audio labelled: Event organizer on why he's ditching balloons