A man has been arrested after cellphone video captured what appeared to be several boaters popping balloons and letting the trash fall into the water near a Coconut Grove marina on Tuesday.
The video posted by MMG Outboard Division, a group who says they "pride ourselves on protecting and spreading awareness on the beautiful waters we get to call home," was shot just after 4 p.m. at Bayshore Landing Marina.
Two people onboard the boat are seen popping balloons and letting them fall into the water.
"As we passed them and expressed our disagreement, we were ignored and they continued popping away with no care in the world," the group posted in their message.
Miami-Dade Police said Wednesday night that they arrested one man and handed out nine civil citations.
The man was identified as 29-year-old David Torres-Bocanegra. He was charged with reckless disregard for the environment.
“As a community, we share the responsibility to protect our environment," Miami-Dade Police Director George A. Perez said in a statement. "I am extremely proud of our Illegal Dumping Unit, for their thorough investigation and swift conclusion to this case."
Tom Rivas, who rented the boat so he could propose to his girlfriend, responded to the criticisms on his Instagram stories, saying he was not responsible for the balloon popping.
"First off, I want to put my heart out and say how important it is to protect our environment," he said.
Cloud Nine, an event planning company, also deflected responsibility in a statement on Instagram.
"Our balloon vendor decorated the boat and left. We decorated the pier, finished the proposal, and cleaned up like we always do. We are never in charge of removing balloon decorations," the statement read in part.
Esteban Bruna, a yacht broker, shot the cellphone video.
"I was pretty upset about it, this is our bay, this is our livelihood," Bruna said. "I was here when they were setting them up and then initially I didn't really think much of it but I guess as the day was done and they started popping away and letting them all go into the water I was shocked."
One witness said the balloons may have been part of a marriage proposal. Bruna said he confronted the people.
"I mentioned to them,' are you guys serious, is this something you're going to do right now?' [They] kind of just blew me off, ignored me," Bruna said. "It was horrifying to see what they were doing to the marine life and the waterways by just dumping all of these balloons into the water."
Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said balloons can be mistaken for food by sea turtles and other marine animals, and if eaten, can lead to internal injury, starvation, and death.
Balloon releases have been illegal in Florida since 1989.
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