Environment officials have issued a warning over the handling of wildlife by divers, snorkelers and swimmers after a spike in complaints.
The Department of Environment says it has received a number of reports within the past month of mishandling of wildlife, including a diver grabbing a sea turtle by its carapace, Stingray Sandbar visitors lifting rays out of the water, and Starfish Point visitors holding starfish out of the water for significant periods of time.
All of these activities have the potential to harm the creatures, according to Department of Environment Deputy Director Tim Austin.
The DoE issued a statement Monday, reminding people that interaction with marine life outside of designated wildlife interaction zones was not permitted. Mr. Austin said stingrays, starfish and sea turtles are resilient creatures but could still be severely injured by mishandling.
“Wildlife Interaction Zones were developed under the National Conservation Law specifically to permit individuals to safely interact with wildlife in our wonderful marine environment, not abuse it,” he said.
Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour added, “Safety has always been one of the primary concerns for our marine environment. Safety for our residents and visitors, as well as for our precious marine animals. We must treat these animals with care and respect if we want them to stay around.”
Under the National Conservation Law, local water sports and dive-shop operators who take tours to the two Wildlife Interaction Zones at the Sandbar or Stingray City must obtain an annual permit and display decals with the relevant year on both sides of their vessel. Without this permit, tour operators can be denied access to these areas.