Colombia’s inspector general has requested the temporary or permanent closure of the Caribbean Johnny Cay island amid concerns increased tourism is killing its ecosystem.
The tiny island is currently on the to-do list of many visitors to tourism hotspot San Andres, the Colombian island some 120 miles off the coast of Nicaragua.
According to the inspector general, however, the increase in tourism is threatening the island’s ecosystem and should be closed to protect the island’s “safety, health and environment, and the evaluation of the entry policy for tourists and commercial activity realized in the park.”
The IG’s suit has alarmed tourism operators, who have said the closing of the popular attraction would harm the local economy that is largely dependent on tourism.
“We believe this is an extreme measure that could lead to — as has happened in other places — the bankruptcy of businesses dedicated to the development of the island,” Gustavo Adolfo Toro of hotel association Cotelco told newspaper El Tiempo.
We agree to work on the protection of the environment and that precautions are taken that support the recuperation and good use of Johnny Cay, but not through extreme measures.
Cotelco chief Gustavo Adolfo Toro
Johnny Cay island is officially called Sucre island and is located at a 10-minute boat ride from the northern coast of San Andres.
The island is popular because of its white beaches and shallow surrounding waters often used for snorkeling.
However, the increased tourism activities have damaged the local ecosystem and has replaced part of the islands’ original palm tree vegetation with grassland.
According to the Inspector General’s Office, the governor of San Andres “has not carried out due monitoring” of tourist activity on the island.
By closing Johnny Cay, island would have the opportunity to recuperate its natural flora and fauna, according to the Inspector General’s Office.