MIAMI – Detectives with the Miami-Dade Police Department’s illegal dumping unit are taking the lead in a multi-agency investigation after a witness recorded a video of people disposing of balloons in Biscayne Bay, authorities said on Wednesday.
Dozens of balloons were used to decorate a charter boat. A witness said he recorded the men on Tuesday afternoon at the Bayshore Landing Marina in Miami’s Coconut Grove and shared the video on Instagram.
Watching one of the men popping the balloons while carelessly letting the deflated rubber fall into the water outraged environmental advocates. The behavior is unlawful in Florida.
“Detectives are currently working the case and are following all leads. Protecting our environment and our marine life is a shared responsibility,” Detective Luis Sierra wrote in an email.
The latex, mylar, or vinyl waste floats on the surface of the water. Turtles, seabirds, and other marine animals mistake them for jellyfish and eat them — or feed them to their young. This makes them deadly.
Miami Commissioner Ken Russell said South Florida residents and tourists are throwing garbage out of boats every weekend and this is polluting Biscayne Bay.
“You need to recognize that this is not a fine; this is a crime. You can be arrested for this,” Russell said.
Juan Pablo Ortega, of Salty Miami, said balloons are a temporary decoration that can last for thousands of years.
“We were shocked to see on social media that they were deliberately popping these balloons and letting them fall into the bay. The most shocking part is that the day before this happened, I was coming out of the channel and I saw a massive sea turtle literally in front of this boat where they were popping these balloons,” said David Fuller, of Salty Miami, a sailing charter that prides itself on environmental awareness.
The Miami Maritime Group Outboard Division shared the video on Instagram and released a statement saying, the public needs to “truly understand the level of neglect and complete lack of care of which numerous boaters, captains, and passengers alike are treating our oceans.”
The Miami Police Department is asking anyone with information about the men in the video to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
MPD and other agencies tasked with safeguarding our waterways are investigating an incident circulating on social media where littering was caught. We take crimes against the environment seriously & will work to bring the individuals responsible for their actions to justice. pic.twitter.com/nkcKqbZaye— Miami PD (@MiamiPD) May 11, 2022