Boat prop slashes stingray

A stingray with deep gash wounds at the Sand Bar is the latest of the animals to be injured by propeller blades at the popular tourist attraction.

The stingray has several gashes including one that is six inches long and two inches deep, according to Fantasea Tours operator, Dexter Ebanks.

‘The cause of the wounds is a boat with a small propeller, like an outboard motor. If the injuries had been done by a large prop, the cuts would be much larger,’ Mr. Ebanks said.

He believes the ray was injured on the shallow Sand Bar where the water is less than three feet deep.

‘This is happening because people are anchoring too shallow on the Sand Bar. Lots of times, they’re drinking. They don’t care about the stingrays. They get in, start the engine and rev it to hell,’ he said.

He said he had earlier seen other stingray with more severe injuries.

‘One had a larger cut and its guts were hanging out. I have seen another injured stringray with the whole area in front of her eyes split open. This was caused by a propeller.

‘I have taken hooks out of stringrays, it’s obvious people are trolling in the area,’ he said.

He added: ‘I think DoE should be policing more often. We’re paying a fee to the DoE for this, along with the licence the tour operators pay to the Port Authority.’

The Department of Environment had a full-time presence at the Sand Bar for about two months, after which the officer who had been assigned the job resigned.

DoE Acting Chief Enforcement Officer Mark Orr said currently officers from the department are policing the Sand Bar on a rotation basis, but admitted that there was no regular officer based there.

‘We are about to start advertising the post again. We don’t have a regular person out there right now. We are rotating officers there.’

Mr. Orr said that officers had checked the stingrays and found the injured animal.

‘Unfortunately, there’s not a lot we can do about it. We have gone back to the vets but no one wants to take on working in the water. We don’t have a marine vet here on government staff. No one’s willing to go into the water to stitch up a stingray.

‘The stingray is still swimming around, they are very good healers. We’re hoping it’s going to be OK,’ Mr. Orr said.

He said that some volunteer Fisheries officers keep an eye out there and report and take photographs of any violations they spot at the Sand Bar.

‘We are enforcing the law out there,’ Mr. Orr said.

Under the Wildlife Interaction Zone regulations, boats are prohibited from anchoring in water shallower than three feet.

It is not just propellers that are injuring stingrays, according to Mr. Dexter, who said he had also found rays with torn rectums.

‘The operators I spoke to said ‘We have to stick our fingers in their rectums to calm them down.’ I don’t understand how that’s going to calm them down. I asked the men if that would calm them down. It’s disgusting,’ Mr. Dexter said.

DoE officers examined stingrays at the Sand Bar and said they did not find any stingrays with injured rectums. However, Mr. Orr said enforcement officers had spoken to one of the operators mentioned by Mr. Ebanks and had warned him he would be prosecuted if he was ever found interfering with stingrays in such a manner.

The DoE has four enforcement officers, as well as a chief enforcement officer, deputy enforcement officer and a supervisor. There is one enforcement officer on Cayman Brac and two park maintenance officers on Little Cayman who also work as enforcement officers.

To report offences relating to marine wildlife, contact 949 8469 or 019 4271 in Grand Cayman, 9260136 in Little Cayman, or 9167021 or 9262342 in Little Cayman, or Channel 10 on VHF or call 911.