Authorities search for suspects who illegally disposed of balloons in Biscayne Bay

Miami commissioner on video: ‘This is not a fine; this is a crime’

Investigators aim to identify a man who was recently disposing of balloons in Biscayne Bay.

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.

Environmentalists have a request for boaters in South Florida: Don't tie up balloons on your boat. These will harm wildlife.

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

Authorities are searching for the two men who were throwing away balloons from a boat into Biscayne Bay.

About the Authors:

Louis Aguirre is an Emmy-award winning journalist who anchors weekday newscasts and serves as WPLG Local 10’s Environmental Advocate.

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."