Cabinet Minister Charles Clifford said last week that some time in the first quarter of 2007 – probably next month – new Regulations to the Marine Conservation Law will be adopted. The Regulations will govern areas called Wildlife Interaction Zones, which will include the popular North Sound tourist attractions of Stingray City and the Sandbar.
The impending Regulations have been long in the process, entailing extensive consultation with key stakeholders in the North Sound tourism product, including the Cayman Islands Tourism Association Watersports Committee, the Land and Sea Cooperative, the Marine Conservation Board and the Department of Environment.
All of those organisations recognised the need for some sort of regulations at Stingray City and the Sandbar, for a variety of reasons.
Mr. Clifford pointed out in the Legislative Assembly that the Regulations will help ensure the preservation of the natural environment for generations to come.
The regulations will not only protect the environment generally in the areas designated as Wildlife Interaction Zones, but they will also protect the various life forms, including stingrays, found in those areas.
In addition, the new Regulations will also help maintain the quality of the tourism experience for visitors of Stingray City and the Sandbar, as well as the safety of those visitors.
One of the Legislators commented in the House that there have been no deaths in the North Sound, but that is not true. Just last week a 55-year-old woman died after snorkelling in the Barkers area of the North Sound. Earlier in the month, a Caymanian man died while attending a boat party on the North Sound. These deaths follow others that have happened there in the past, as well as several close calls.
While there is no way of determining if the proposed Regulations, had they already been in effect, could have saved any of the people who have died in the North Sound over the years, but they might have. The Regulations will require all tourist boats entering the Wildlife Interaction Zones to be licensed, and presumably operators will have to adhere to certain safety standards to be licensed.
The North Sound creates economic opportunity for many people, but money isn’t the only consideration. Providing a safe attraction that can be enjoyed for generations to come is what is most important, and we look forward to the implementation of the new regulations in the very near future.