Stingrays released back to the wild

Stingray transfer to boat main

Four tagged stingrays that had been living in a tank at tourist attraction Dolphin Discovery for the past six months were removed from captivity on Monday and placed back in their home in the Sandbar off Grand Cayman. 

Cayman Islands Department of Environment staff and handlers from Dolphin Discovery worked together to transfer the four stingrays back to the Sandbar in the North Sound. The two male and 
two female rays had been 
tagged as part of a census of the 
animals in January.  

The entire operation lasted about 90 minutes. Handlers at Dolphin Discovery moved the rays one by one from their tank into a water-filled wheelbarrow and wheeled each one to a Department of Environment truck in the nearby carpark. There, the stingrays were transferred into three white plastic tubs on the back of the truck and then driven taken to Morgan’s Harbour where the tubs were emptied into a circular tank erected on a Department of Environment boat. The boat then headed off toward the Sandbar, where the rays were released into the sea 
shortly before 9.30am. 

Director of Environment Gina Ebanks-Petrie said she was happy the stingrays had been released, but was disappointed that six other rays, which had not previously been tagged, were not being freed. 

“It went really well,” Ms Ebanks-Petrie said. “Moving the rays from Dolphin Discovery – [Dolphin Discovery staff] did help us get the rays – and the transport 
went seamlessly.” 

She added: “We want the other six to be released as well, but we continue to work with them and hopefully we can get the best result for the rays.” 

A visiting marine veterinarian last month reported the presence of the rays at Dolphin Discovery to conservationist Guy Harvey, who alerted the Department of Environment. When DoE staff scanned the 10 rays, they found that four of them – two males and two females – had been tagged in the Sandbar in January as part of a census. When researchers returned to the Sandbar in July to carry out another census, they found just 57 rays – 
four fewer than in January.  

Dolphin Discovery took 
possession of the four stingrays in March and April when fishermen swapped them for bait at the facility. 

The four rays had been held in quarantine away from the six other stingrays for a week to prepare them for their release back into the wild.  

The DoE has requested that they be allowed to tag the remaining six rays so that they can monitor if any more rays from the wild are added to the Dolphin Discovery’s collection of the animals, but permission to do so has not been forthcoming. 

Carlos Moreno, general manager of Dolphin Discovery, said the rays were safer at the dolphinarium than at the Sandbar. 

He cited a recent photograph that has gone viral on the Internet, showing a stingray being held high up out of the water to “photobomb” three women at the Sandbar. “We don’t allow people to do that here,” he said. 

“Here the tourists can touch them, but we don’t allow them to kiss the stingrays,” he said, adding that the thousands of tourists who interact with the stingrays and feed them at the Sandbar each week make the stingrays stressed and could be contributing to the decline in their numbers. 

A census taken in January found 61 stingrays at the Sandbar. A similar count done in July showed just 57 rays, only five of which were male. 

Mr. Harvey, who was on hand at Dolphin Discovery on Monday to observe the release of the rays, said he was concerned that most of the rays at Dolphin Discovery were male, and that the number of males at the Sandbar, according to the recent surveys, is low. 

“We need those males back in the wild population to boost the reproductive capacity,” Mr. Harvey said. “Whether or not they came from the Sandbar is immaterial, the fact is we have a very low population of males right now and how can you keep it going if you don’t have a better balanced sex ratio.” 

Five of the six stingrays remaining at Dolphin Discovery are male. Mr. Moreno suggested that two males rays could be swapped for two females.
Mr. Moreno said those six rays had been caught in waters near West Bay in Grand Cayman. “We have not broken any law. Those were taken from here,” said Mr. Moreno, pointing to the water outside the facility. 

He said the stingrays could reproduce at Dolphin Discovery and their offspring could be released.  

The only legislation that protects stingrays is the Marine Conservation Law, but that applies only if a stingray is taken from a protected zone, such as a Wildlife Interaction Zone. The Sandbar and Stingray City are Wildlife Interaction Zones. Although the four released stingrays had been tagged at the Sandbar, there is no evidence that the rays were taken from that protected area. 

The National Conservation Bill, which is still awaiting passage through the Legislative Assembly, would offer more protection to the animals, but that legislation has been delayed for more 
than a decade.


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Stingray transfer to boat v

The stingrays are transferred to a tank on the DoE boat. – PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY


  1. How about releasing the other 6 wild stingrays and the green turtle in their cage?

    Is it against the law in Cayman to feed these marine creatures outside of the interactive zone of stingray city?

    Discovery Cove needs to release these beautiful creatures back to their home.

  2. Dolphin Discovery has shown their true colors in grabbing the stingrays from the north sound. Don’t even tell me that they didn’t know they were tagged.

  3. Ya, just kill and eat the sting rays instead. It’s your right to.

    But bad form to the person who keeps one safe and fed. Gotta release it!

    so it can be……killed and eaten.

    That absolutely makes sense.

  4. Mr. Moreno hit the ‘nail on the head’; there is NO LAW! Cayman should be ashamed of itself that government here hasn’t got the foresight to protect its richest resource: the Fauna Flora of this island! Only because scuba diving is a monetary asset has the government seen fit to pass a Marine Conservation Law, everything else can go to hell as far as they’re concerned. The National Conservation should be a top priority. When our natural resources are gone, will banking financial business sustain this country? How long will tourists enjoy the concrete jungle we so heavily prioritize in. There’s a lot more ramifications to this issue due to lack of a National Conservation Law. World Travellers are getting very savy in their choice of places to vacation, they seek countries where nature and conservation are revered. I guess I don’t need to mention Mt. Trashmore as being the beacon that greets them upon arrival by air sea, do I? What does my comment have to do with the stingrays?; EVERYTHING. We live in a circle of life that when the table is tipped unbalanced it falls flat on its face with no way to retain its momentum.

  5. The proof is in the water in this case. It is obvious that dolphin parks are on the decline as more and more peole are becoming aware of this abuse and their conscience is getting in the way of participating and/or supporting this in any way and look for other ways of being educated.

    As a result, operators are now seeking alternate ways to attract people to come throught the door in the hope to keep the doors open and as usual, the local applicable laws are with them in the same water. Regardless of who has actually the power to stop them from exploiting even more wild animals then they already do, they won’t, because it looks bad as nobody wants to look like a fool by first allowing them to operate without a license at all, broken all the evironmental marine waste laws killing the corals and what not so theirs heads will therefore not come out of the sand and do what what is not only morally the right thing to do but also ignore the laws that have been written by themselves.

    What took place here is nothing short of legal poaching the way they put it, you can catch them here, but not there. So on one side the stingrays get all the help they can get, whatever little bit that may be, and on the other side it is ok to kill and slaughter them for bait or do whatever you want witrh them.

    Perhaps the most applicable explanation of law would be: The principles and regulations established in a community by some authority and applicableto its people, whether in the form of legislation or of custom and policies recognized and enforced by judicial decision.

    I don’t think one has to be a lawyer to understand this.

  6. Rolls eyes at animaliberator

    Seriously… seriously believe what you just said, didn’t you?!

    Or could it be, that once you go and swim with the dolphins, you just never go back. It’s not that exciting. Something you want to do once in your life. Once you do it, you cross it off your bucket list. the price is too expensive for cruise shippers. And with the economy every business is suffering. So this is why they need extra attractions? Nawwww…that actually makes sense, so there fore, implausible.

    Please……cause people are becoming aware of this abuse. You seriously just said that.

    ya, it’s really abusive to get 3 square meals a day and there is absolutely no one trying to eat you, aka like sharks or anything. You can actually sleep in peace. Without the fear of being eaten. It’s downright abusive, I tell ya.

    As long as they aren’t tagged sting rays. I don’t see a problem. Hence my sarcastic post way below.

    Again, it’s abuse when these sting rays will get fed well. And have no danger, so they can live a longer life. It’s abusive.

    Rolls eyes once again.

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