Yachts Miami Beach Show Promises to Stop Using Styrofoam Docks That Leave Mess in Bay

Organizers of Yachts Miami Beach plan to replace thousands of Styrofoam docks that environmentalists say are harmful to the city's waterways.EXPAND
Organizers of Yachts Miami Beach plan to replace thousands of Styrofoam docks that environmentalists say are harmful to the city's waterways.
Photo by Dave Doebler

Every year, the massive Yachts Miami Beach event showcases hundreds of yachts along a ten-block stretch west of Collins Avenue in Mid-Beach. All of those boats require temporary docks, though, and for years the company that runs the show has installed floating Styrofoam structures in the water. 

But those docks left a huge mess behind, environmentalists complained. Now the boat show has agreed to phase out the Styrofoam for more environmentally friendly docks by 2018 at a cost of $2.4 million.

“We’re refitting all of our equipment, using plastic casing injected with Styrofoam so there’s no exposed Styrofoam,” says Dane Graziano, senior vice president and COO of Show Management, the producer of the show. “It’s part of our commitment to the environment.”

Show Management runs annual boat shows in five cities across Florida, including Miami Beach and West Palm Beach. This past February, New Times reported that Show Management’s thousands of docks, which are fashioned out of Styrofoam and topped with wood, left a huge mess of tiny polystyrene plastic balls in Indian Creek Waterway during and after the five-day Miami Beach show. The small pieces are especially harmful to fish and wildlife.

Environmentalists found masses of Styrofoam floating in the bay after last year's show.
Environmentalists found masses of Styrofoam floating in the bay after last year's show.
Photo by Dave Doebler

Activists had been pushing local leaders for months before the event to take up the Styrofoam waste issue. During the 2015 yacht show, Miami Beach environmental activist Dave Doebler, chair of the city’s sustainability committee, documented the impact of the Styrofoam docks (totaling six miles of foam blocks) and alerted city officials and staff.

As a result, Show Management agreed to swap out the Styrofoam docks over the course of three years. It also promised short-term mitigation plans to contain and clean the mess. But in advance of this year's show, Doebler took video of the same docks in the water. During the event, activists documented a horrible mess.

Then, a month later, New Times reported that the docks caused the same mess at the Palm Beach Boat Show. 

After pressure from lawmakers and the public, Show Management recently vowed to make changes more quickly than it had planned. An Arkansas-based company is constructing the new docks, which are up to the highest environmental standards, Graziano says. They’ll be completed in time for use at the St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show, taking place from December 3 through 6.

Forty percent of the docks at next year’s shows in Miami Beach and Palm Beach will use the new docks, with the entire inventory completed in time for the 2018 shows.

Doebler says the news is a huge victory for all of those who have been pushing for greater protection of Florida’s waters.

“I appreciate that Show Management is making the investment and focus on ensuring they do everything they can to protect our natural environment,” Doebler says. 


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