Senator Ileana Garcia (R-Miami), in collaboration with the Miami River Commission and local law enforcement, seeks to establish a joint law enforcement substation on the Miami River to address the serious issues stemming from widespread illegal vessel charter and livery operations.
These illegitimate operations have contributed to increased accidents and fatalities in South Florida waterways as a result of violating federal and state laws and dishonest business practices. Embarking and disembarking unaware clients over public seawalls, off major roadways, or by trespassing on private property are not only unscrupulous business practices, but are also potentially dangerous to the public and destructive to the surrounding environment and natural resources. Additionally, many of these illegal vessels are not U.S. Coast Guard certified or crewed by certified professionals, and they may lack appropriate insurance coverage.
“These bad actors are tarnishing the reputation South Floridians have as respectful and responsible boaters,” said Senator Garcia. “Everyone I have met shares the same consensus that something needs to be done to address the up-tick in criminal activity that had started before the COVID-19 pandemic. Increasing patrol presence on the river will prove critical and it fills me with pride seeing the goodwill and effort being put forward by law enforcement, our local and county governments and officials, and the Miami River Commission to address this serious issue.”
This summer, Senator Garcia met with the Miami River Commission, visited the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Biscayne Bay headquarters, and participated in several ride-alongs with the U.S. Coast Guard, FWC and local marine law enforcement units to gather firsthand knowledge of the increase in criminal activity on the Miami River and Biscayne Bay stemming from widespread illegal vessel charter and livery operations. The consensus among local officials is that a joint effort to increase law enforcement presence on the Miami River and strengthen enforcement tools is of the utmost importance.
“I want to thank Senator Garcia for her support of law enforcement,” said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto. “It is paramount we work together to conserve our natural resources and provide a safe boating environment for all residents and visitors.”
“The Miami River Commission applauds Senator Ileana Garcia’s strong support for law enforcement on and along the Miami River,” said Miami River Commission Chairman Horacio Stuart Aguirre. “At the recent first reading of the Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget, the City of Miami Commission unanimously, and wisely, approved an increase of five City of Miami Marine Patrol Officers, and the Miami-Dade Commission unanimously, and likewise wisely, approved an increase of four County Marine Patrol Officers. Together, along with U.S. Coast Guard and the FWC, they will enforce all laws in the Miami River, including the idle no-wake speed zone, in order to protect the threatened Manatee, shorelines, docks, and boats.”
On July 2, Senator Garcia met with the FWC at their Biscayne headquarters to discuss how to improve both state and local law enforcement’s ability to address illegal charter and livery operations in South Florida. Officers noted the need for increased cooperation to curb criminal activity on the Miami River in a more effective and efficient manner.
On August 6, Senator Garcia met with the Miami-Dade County Marine Patrol Unit to discuss increasing resources for local law enforcement units and addressing the lackluster system of fines and penalties which was failing to deter illegal charter and livery operations throughout South Florida. Officers also noted the need for increased cooperation to curb criminal activity on the Miami River in a more effective and efficient manner.
On August 17, Senator Garcia participated in a workshop hosted by Miami-Dade County’s Chief Bay Officer, Irela Bague, to review the state-owned spoil island contracts deeded to the City of Miami. Currently, the island preserves and parks managed by the City of Miami are facing increased deterioration through misuse by illegal vessel charter and livery operations and their passengers.
On August 24, Senator Garcia participated in a ride-a-long with the U.S. Coast Guard after meeting with Sector Miami Commander, Captain Jo-Ann F. Burdian. The meeting served to discuss how they and law enforcement can cooperate to address the abuse of loopholes in federal laws by illegal vessel charter and livery operations and their human and drug trafficking, all of which have increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senator Garcia is also working to address the concerns that South Florida law enforcement have presented regarding boating safety and infrastructure.
On August 7, Senator Garcia participated in a ride-along with the City of Miami’s Marine Patrol Detail. Officers noted the need for assistance with the creation and enforcement of speed restriction zones in high traffic areas such as the City of Miami’s Marine Stadium, and the clearing of dangerous mooring fields and safe removal of derelict vessels throughout city waters, which contribute to water quality degradation and boating-related accidents. Officers also noted the need for increased cooperation to curb criminal activity on the Miami River in a more effective and efficient manner.
On August 12, Senator Garcia participated in a ride-along with FWC. Officers noted the need to revisit existing policies and procedures for recreational activities on sandbars and the Miami River due to the careless operations of illegal vessel charter and livery operations and unaware out-of-town vessel operators.
For more information, please visit flsenate.gov.