Environment enforcement officers are seeking public assistance to catch rogue fishermen believed to be responsible for killing at least two eagle rays.
Mark Orr, chief enforcement officer at the Department of Environment, said there had been two confirmed incidents where eagle rays were killed by fishermen and had their wings sliced off.
He said there were anecdotal reports of two more eagle ray carcasses, similarly butchered, being discovered by fishermen.
When fisherman John Jefferson first made the gruesome discovery of the mutilated eagle ray in East End, Mr. Orr said he had never seen the protected species targeted in Cayman’s waters before.
At the time, he suggested, it was possible that the ray had been caught accidentally.
Now, after a second carcass was found in Bodden Town last week and fishermen reported other incidents, he said it was apparent someone was targeting the species.
“We have never seen this before, but apparently they are a food source in some cultures.
“We are asking the public to keep their eyes open and if they see anyone trying to catch a ray to call us immediately or call 911.
“Eagle rays are a type one protected species,” he said. “There is no excuse for it and it something that we would certainly pursue as a prosecution.”
He acknowledged that the original incident had sparked outrage in the community, particularly among divers, and urged the public to be vigilant to help catch poachers in the act.
He added, “I’m very concerned about it. Not only are they worth much more in the water from a tourism perspective, they are protected under the law. If someone is just ignorant of the law, we hope that the word gets out and that this stops now.
“Eagle rays and sharks are the two most common things cited by divers that they want to see in the water in Cayman. They are majestic in the water.”