SYMBOL of national pride or threat to the environment?
That’s the question many are asking ahead of Gibraltar National Day, when 30,000 red and white balloons — one for each resident of the British territory — are set to fly over the crowd in Casemates Square.
The release of the balloons is a much beloved tradition dating back to the early years of National Day celebrations.
But in recent years, the custom has come under fire for its ecological implications, particularly for marine life.
The Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS) is among the groups calling for a ban on the balloons.
In a press release, the GONHS emphasized the balloons’ impact on ocean animals, especially turtles, saying, “Once balloons have been eaten they can block digestive systems and cause animals to starve.”
Even though the balloons are made out of biodegradable material, the GONHS asserts they can take years to decay and in the meantime litter cities and fields.
However, the anti-balloonists seem to be in the minority, as the balloons inspire feelings of pride and solidarity across the Gibraltarian community.
“I think they have a lot of symbolic value,” said Jonathan Lutwyche, 15.
“I know they’re controversial now, but it’s something we always do. It’s just once a year and it means so much to Gibraltarians.”