Stormont urged to follow suit as Isle of Man bans Chinese lanterns and helium balloons
STORMONT has been urged to follow the example of the Isle of Man by making it illegal to release sky lanterns or helium balloons.
The ban, which also prohibits selling the items, has been made to combat litter, prevent fires and protect wildlife.
Environmental groups have hailed it as a "positive step".
Manx Wildlife Trust chief executive Leigh Morris said it would "play an important part in protecting the Manx countryside".
Anyone caught flouting the ban will risk fines of up to £500.
"The danger these items can pose to wildlife, particularly in the marine environment, is significant and not debatable," Mr Morris said.
The Manx National Farmers' Union was among the first to call for the items to be made illegal in 2014 after a cow died from swallowing lantern wire.
Sales were then prohibited from 2015 but it has not been illegal to acquire them from outside the island.
Other countries including Australia, Brazil and Germany already have bans.
SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said the Isle of Man legislation illustrated "how easily we can all play our part in protecting the environment".
"We must stop and think about how our actions can be devastating for wildlife," she said.
"I understand how people release balloons to mark special occasions or to acknowledge the death of a loved one but a greater tribute would be to do all we can to preserve the environment for future generations – planting a tree or sponsoring endangered species can be so much more long lasting."