CAYO COSTA — An environmental group says cruises are destroying part of Cayo Costa Island.
Cayo Costa is one of the few undeveloped barrier islands left in Florida. You can only get there by boat.
For years, visitors have been coming to the northern dock on the island, but in 2016, cruises started coming to a southern dock in an area called "The Narrows".
“It’s the wrong place to drop people off. No facilities, no bathroom, no park staff, no monitoring endangered species habitat," said Dick Anderson, a member of Save Cayo Costa.
The group's petition to ban the cruises already has more than 2,000 signatures.
“The grass flats can be destroyed when large 45-foot boats with twin engines bring thousands of people there every year," said Anderson.
Those sea grasses provide a breeding ground for fish, and food for sea turtles and manatees, but Armstrong said the island itself is being damaged as well.
“The trampling of the dune creates a trough right across the island, and that’s a prime spot for the island to be breached," said Anderson.
Back in 2016, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) put out a report that included a graphic, showing the damage to the sea grass in red around the southern coast of Cayo Costa.
But at the bottom of the report, it said “There appears to be adequate water for ingress/egress from Captiva Pass to the dock without impacting sea grass beds.”
So Captiva Cruises, which is the main company serving the island, continues to use the southern dock.
In a statement, the company said in part "We are committed to following all DEP policies for the conscientious use of these state-owned docks.”
But Anderson said, that’s not enough to keep the environment safe from harm.
"It reduces the resiliency of our entire ecosystem, and that has impacts for us," said Anderson.
The Save Cayo Costa group is also asking people to come out to a meeting of the Florida Acquisition and Restoration Council at 9:00 a.m. on June 11th in the DEP Douglas Building in Talahassee, where this issue will be discussed.