COCONUT GROVE, FLA. (WSVN) - - Plastic debris from dozens of popped party balloons carelessly ended up as litter in Biscayne Bay, and cellphone video of the bad behavior has caused a wave of outrage online.
The footage captured people on board a yacht near the Bayshore Landing marina as they popped party balloons and improperly disposed of the decor just off of Coconut Grove, at around 4:15 p.m. Tuesday.
“Gotta love Miami charter boats,” said Miami Maritime Group’s Esteban Bruna as he recorded the balloons being popped. “Let’s throw a party, pop every single balloon on the bow of the boat and just right into the water.”
Around 200 balloons were attached to the 58-foot vessel.
After an event, a chartered party, crew members on board began popping the balloons with knives instead of properly disposing of them, letting the debris fall into Biscayne Bay.
Those who witnessed the act and work on the water took exception and recorded the incident to post on social media.
“I was mad. I told them, ‘This is ridiculous. I don’t think it’s right’ ,” Bruna said. “I tried to talk to them the best I could, and they basically ignored me and blew me off, so I went ahead and posted it, and I let the people do what the people do.”
Bruna spoke to 7News about the environmental hazard.
“Don’t pop your balloons outside. Don’t throw any more trash into the water,” said Bruna. “Take the high road, take it inside, pop it inside and throw them away like normal, civilized human beings. You know, it’s our oceans, and we’ve got to protect them.”
After Bruna shared the video on social media, the outrage was swift.
“I remember checking my phone probably an hour after I posted it and was like, ‘Whoa, this is exploding.’ Seeing videos online and whatnot of manatees eating balloons and sea turtles eating balloons, fish eating balloons,” he said. “I’m an avid fisherman myself and have actually cut open certain types of mahi-mahi off shore and whatnot, when we do go fishing, and I’ve had them come out with pieces of plastic, bottle caps, even little tips of balloons, as well, in their stomachs.”
“It is really frustrating to see somebody with that kind of ignorance,” said J.P. Ortega of Charters Eco Tours.
Ortega charters an ecology tour out of the marina and also recorded video of the balloons before they were popped.
“We thought they were gonna end up in the bay unintentionally. We never thought that, two hours later, they’re gonna be popping the balloons on the water,” said Ortega.
“We pull trash from the bay all the time, and here we have people deliberately popping balloons and throwing them into the water, so it made us angry,” said David Furer.
Furer didn’t see the balloons being popped, but he picked up some of the debris he saw floating in the water.
“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,” he said. “We see an incredible amount of wildlife here. We get to see manatees, sea turtles, even sharks, so we were shocked to see them popping the balloons into the bay.”
“A lot of wildlife around here, and [plastic debris] takes thousands of years to disappear,” said Ortega. “It doesn’t even disappear. It becomes micro pieces.”
Dumping balloons into the ocean is illegal.
Many members of law enforcement were tagged in the original social media post, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other members of the boating/yachting communities.
Law enforcement has been investigating and have thanked the community for bringing it to their attention.
The Miami Police Department tweeted the following statement about the incident, Tuesday afternoon.
Officers with Miami-Dade Police’s Illegal Dumping Unit came to the marina on Wednesday to investigate.
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