No freedom for stingrays

The owner of Dolphin Discovery says he has no plans to free six stingrays at the facility despite the passage of a legal amendment outlawing the removal of rays from Cayman waters or possession 
of the animals. 

Gene Thompson said that since the stingrays were already at Dolphin Discovery when the amendments to the Marine Conservation Law was passed in the Legislative Assembly last month, he was “grandfathered in” and the amended law did not apply 
in this case. 

He said Dolphin Discovery was in a similar position as the Cayman Turtle Farm, which is exempt from the provision of the Marine Conservation Law governing the possession of turtles. 

Mr. Thompson insisted that he did not intend to release the rays because having them at the dolphinarium enables tourists who do not have the time or the opportunity to get to the Sandbar to interact with the stingrays and see them up close. Six stingrays remain in a tank at Dolphin Discovery where tourists can view the animals while visiting the facility.  

The rays were taken from the sea by fishermen who then exchanged them for bait from Dolphin Discovery.  

“Those rays would have been dead if we had not taken them,” said Mr. Thompson. Four other rays that had also been handed over to Dolphin Discovery by fishermen were freed last year after it was discovered that they were carrying tags placed on them during a census count of the rays at the Sandbar. 

At the time, the only legislation to protect the animals were sections of the Marine Conservation Law prohibiting the removal of any wildlife from the Sandbar or Stingray City, which are designated as Wildlife Interaction Zones, and from marine parks or designated environmental zones. Until the new amendments were passed last month, it was legal to take stingrays from any other area. 

The Department of Environment relocated the freed four rays to the Sandbar in October last year.  

Environment minister Mark Scotland said it would be up to the Department of Environment to enforce the law regarding the capture of stingrays. Referring to the situation at Dolphin Discovery, he said: “I don’t know what the position would be there, whether it would be grandfathered or not.” 

The Department of Environment is looking into what steps can be taken to return the remaining six rays to the sea. “We are seeking legal advice before we take action on this,” said Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie. 

The amended conservation law now reads: “Whoever, in Cayman waters, takes, injures or has in his possession – (a) chitons; (b) periwinkles; (c) bleeding teeth; or (d) rays, 

taken from Cayman waters is guilty of an offence.”  

However, a glitch to taking any legal action against Dolphin Discovery under the amended law is that it has not yet officially come into effect. Even though lawmakers passed the amended law prior to the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly in March, the governor has not yet signed it into law. 

According to the Governor’s Office, the matter is currently with the Legal Department and it is anticipated that it will be gazetted by 7 May. 


  1. This attitude that the bounty of the sea is only there to cash in upon is not new.
    Can you imagine if it was not an old wealthy Caymanian family of long standing doing this but Dart what hell would be raised?

  2. This guy just gives me another reason not to go to or promote dolphin discovery. GREED vs. the better good of Cayman is despicable. What else can he steal from the ocean to make money for himself? I dont think people have seen a blue marlin up close…

  3. Crisscross I agree with you totally, nothing but greed, and some people has no shame about it.
    However I think the fishermen who removed them should be charged.

  4. I am kind on the fence with this one. On one side I can understand his position if he lawfully has the right to keep them and they are not being mistreated, I also agree with his point that they would have been dead if they didn’t take them. On the other hand I also agree that it is most likely all about money, but If they can breed them and start releasing rays into the wild it may also help the numbers recover. In the long run I guess I would have to rely on the DOE to figure it out, Cayman has bigger issues right now and new law will protect the ones still in the wild..

  5. There is no fence to sit on. He needs to do the right thing.

    Yes, he saved them from being killed, but to say they’re not being mistreated isn’t right – they’re now kept in a tiny area compared to where they were previously living.

    It is purely about money.

  6. I think its (expletive) with respect to the fishermen story,

    Stingrays have no commercial value yet the fishermen suddenly decided to catch 10 including some (or all) from the sandbar where they are ‘tame’, then happened to find someone to swap them for bait…

    That smacks of the same conspiracy as the guy who buys a 5000 rolex from the dodgy geyser in the shadows at the back of the pub for 200 bucks, and then act all surprised when it turns out to be stolen

  7. Folks, animals are not our possessions to do with as we choose. They have a right to freedom, as we do. Stop using animals for our greedy purposes. Why don’t you serve up the sting rays like the turtle farm. Another disgusting action. It’s like a zoo eating the lions. I just don’t get it.

  8. To say that they would have died i guess make him sleep at nite…. but dies of what?

    If a predator eats it, well that is nature and the food chain… if he removes all the stingrays cause he wants to save them from sharks the sharks will find something else to eat…

  9. Disgusting is the only word I can think of. I have boycotted this place since it opened and will continue to. When I have off islands guests that want to go there. i tell them they are welcome to but I will not go with them or take them. They will have to find their own way there and back and I am not interested in the time they had.

  10. While I understand everyone position on this, I am confused about a few things. First off, Were rays on the endangered species list like all the turtle that are slaughtered at the turtle farm for people to eat? Seems like a double standard simply because people have a taste for turtle meat. And as far as whether or not they would have died, I think he was referring to dying by the hand of the fishermen who caught them not by nature. I do agree that animals have the right to freedom as someone mentioned but does that mean that animals in zoo’s or dogs and cats need to be set free to roam or every fish in an aquarium put back into the ocean. As far a s I see it he hasn’t broken any laws or mistreated the rays in any way, they actually may be safer there away from predators, also there has been scientific proof that the tourist activities at stingray city has been damaging to the ray population yet I don’t see anyone demanding that this stops, maybe it’s about the money..

  11. But then again, perhaps Mr. Thompson is protecting the rays from the dangers out there in the North Sound. You know… electing himself to be a conservationist.

  12. Does anybody actually buy the story about exchanging the stingrays for bait? I thought that was the story he gave for the tagged ones. I wonder if he’d exchange bait for a Cayman Parrot, Blue Iguana, or Dwarf Boa?

  13. With operations like Dolphin Discovery operating in the Cayman Islands it offers me no confidence that the Marine Conservation Board is to be taken over by politicians who pander to these people.

  14. thousands of cruise guests believed that they went to Caymans Famous Stingray City
    the icon of this country is being (expletive)
    every single caymanian, PR and expat is being negatively affected
    there is stories of chlorine in the tanks hurting the rays
    etc. etc. etc.
    i say boycott all the businesses connected or related to the owners

  15. I hate to tell you all this but several cruise lines now have their own beach property where they have imprisoned stingrays. Plus they had their stinging barbs removed so that there is no danger to customers. They claim by doing this that their numbers of customers have gone up.
    So what do you think will change that scenario?
    The reality of our world is that ,if a large corporation would spend the money. We could sell turtle burgers like we sell hamburgers.In a short amount of time say less then six months they would be making millions ,all they need is a good sauce to put on it.
    Are you people so blind that just a short time ago you forgot all the noise that was created. Don’t swim with the dolphins caused we will boycott the facility. Ha-ha what a web we weave when we practice to deceive . People want what they want. I predict that the stingray city will eventually close because of safer alternatives on land . Even if we make a law they will control their own beaches. Start thinking a new idea.

  16. Why are we getting so worked up about a few stingrays?

    The law says that no more can be taken from the sea. The ones there now were taken when it was lawful to do so.

    They aren’t endangered species in any way.

    How can we eat steak, burgers, lamb and salmon and yet get upset about a few stingrays not being allowed to roam the ocean freely?

  17. As a Canadian who visits Grand Cayman regularily..I have and will continue to BOYCOTT Dolphin Discovery..I proudly display my Cayman Islands..Keep Dolphins Free sticker..and will continue to educate friends and anyone who will listen about dolphins in captivity and the kidnapped prisoner rays in Grand Cayman…I beg the Deptartment of Environment to take action…

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