Palm Beach Boat Show Pollutes Water With Styrofoam

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In February, scores of multimillion-dollar boats lined the Indian Creek Waterway for the Yachts Miami Beach boat show. A company called Show Management organizes the event and uses Styrofoam docks for people to access the boats on display. During the three-day event, little pieces and chunks of Styrofoam broke off the docks and into the water. Fish confused the Styrofoam with food, and since the pieces were so tiny, it was almost impossible to filter them out of the water completely.

Environmentalists were even more peeved when they found out a month later that Show Management was using the same type of docks at the Palm Beach Boat Show last week, from March 17 to 20.

“It’s a sad situation,” says Russ Redman, the Palm Beach County chair of the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit environmental grassroots organization. “It’s a company that’s benefiting off the ocean, and it seems as though they’re going to sell this beautiful vision of going out and boating on their ocean by polluting the ocean.”

Penny Redford, sustainability manager for the City of West Palm Beach, was alerted about the Styrofoam docks. She rushed to the water to take a look for herself, and sure enough, there were tiny pieces of Styrofoam floating in the water.

“We have limited places that could catch particles larger pieces," Redford explains. "It floats up against the sea wall and some parts of the dock. I could see smaller pieces and particles skimming up at the surface."

Show Management did not return an email seeking comment. We’ll update this post if we hear back.

In the past, South Florida boat shows have been criticized for accidentally destroying mangroves at Marine Stadium in Miami (a mix-up with city contractors) and killing an endangered manatee (albeit outside of the show boundaries). 

"It seems pretty obvious [that using these docks] in an environment that we have down here is not a good idea," Redman says. "There's a bigger body of water here, and it gets windy, the waves move docks around a lot, which only breaks up [the Styrofoam] even more." 

The City of West Palm Beach held a ten-year contract with Show Management to run the show each year. But now that contract is up for renewal, Redford says. As part of negotiations, she is discussing swapping the current docks with a type that keeps the Styrofoam encapsulated and contained. 

"The marine environment is massively important to everyone in South Florida, and we want to make sure that we do everything we can to be good stewards of that," she said. 

Show Management runs boat shows in five cities across Florida. Until new docks are designed, the unencapsulated ones are expected to pop up again in Sarasota at the Suncoast Boat Show on April 15.

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