A video showing crewmembers on board a 58-foot vessel discarding balloons by popping them into the water at Bayshore Landing Marina, Miami, on May 10 went viral, leading to arrests and 10 civil citations totaling to more than $25,000 in fines.
The yacht had been chartered for a marriage proposal, and event planning company Cloud Nine decorated for the occasion. The company made an Instagram post stating they brought a proposal setup, and a balloon vendor brought the balloons, decorated the boat, and left. Cloud Nine stated, “We are never in charge of removing balloon decorations,” but have shared their new initiatives to reduce harm, including new protocols and refusing to place balloons on floating facilities.
“As a community, we share the responsibility to protect our environment. I am extremely proud of our Illegal Dumping Unit for their thorough investigation and swift conclusion to this case,” said Miami-Dade Police Department Interim Director George A. Perez in a statement. “Our coastal waterways are the natural beauty of our county, and our marine life depend on us to keep them safe.”
The non-biodegradable balloons remain on the surface of the water and marine animals mistake them for food, Local 10 News reports. The situation has sparked a Change.org petition to ban balloons in marinas, beaches, and coastal areas in Miami, and it already has more than 2,700 signatures.
According to the arrest form, David Torres-Bocanegra confessed that he popped approximately 50 balloons that then went into the waters, facing a charge of reckless disregard for the environment. On May 13, Martina Gaspoz was arrested as well.
Local 10 News reports civil citations of $2,510 were issued to the owner of the vessel, the event coordinator, the person in charge of the charter company, along with Cloud Nine and yacht charter company HD2 Yacht Service.