Key West Express has agreed to pay $2.2 million for damages from the grounding of the Big Cat Express in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary four years ago.
The amount was based on the cost of restoring the injured turtle grass and other seagrass, invertebrates, sponges and several fish species, according to the proposed consent decree filed last week in federal court.
The 137’x34’x13’ catamaran that runs between southwest Florida and Key West ran aground at the south entrance to Lakes Passage, about 1.9 miles west of Wisteria Island on Dec. 27, 2016, court documents show. The impact caused trenches, blowholes and associated berms with seagrass habitat injured or destroyed in the sanctuary — an area of about 3,800 square nautical miles of water surrounding the Florida Keys.
The ferry’s captain said he was pushed out of the channel and that parasailing boats were in his way, according to the Miami Herald, citing reports by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
A judge can accept or reject the terms which were negotiated by lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice’s environment and natural resources division at the request of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The consent decree motion was unopposed by Key West Express.
An attorney for the Fort Myers, Fla.-based ferry operator did not respond to a request for comment.