Editorial for 12 July: A ray of hope

Census takers should know by the end of the weekend
approximately how many stingrays are frolicking about at the Sandbar.

Preliminary indications are that we should have at least as
many rays as were counted in the area last year, and maybe more.

The good news is that this time around, the census takers
have come armed with an ultrasound machine that can identify pregnant female
rays. The census takers are finding many pregnant females, which means the
population is reproducing.

Censuses of the Sandbar stingray population have been done
in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2012. Between 2002 and 2008, the number of
rays remained static at around 100 each time. But the number dropped to 61 in a
census carried out in January 2012. A second census done in June last year
revealed only 57 of the animals. The health of the stingrays is generally good,
although blood tests show they could benefit from a diet that includes more
than just the squid they’ve been trained to eat from humans’ hands.

The census being taken this week, as well as blood tests,
are important so that we can understand what is going on with the rays and
their habitat and help sustain the population. The Sandbar is perhaps the top
tourism attraction Grand Cayman has to offer the world, so it is imperative
that the rays thrive and reproduce.

Tour boat operators and their crews rely on the attraction
to put food on the table. Likewise, hotels, restaurants and retailers depend on
attractions such as Stingray City and the Sandbar to keep people employed and
Cayman’s economy going. We must do all we can to ensure the health and well
being of the stingrays in our waters; we need them to help sustain us.