Two stingrays have been injured in quick succession by boats at the sandbar and it has raised concerns at the Department of Environment and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation.
Both entities are reminding boat operators and members of the public to exercise caution while in the Wildlife Interaction Zone.
“The winter season in the Cayman Islands often brings turbulent waters to the sound, making it more difficult to maneuver around the sandbar,” said GHOF project manager Jessica Harvey. “All tour boat captains and operators need to take special care when visiting stingray city sandbar, not only for the stingrays but also for their guests. Boats should not be reversing onto the sandbar to collect their stern anchor.”
The latest incident happened Friday when a stingray was injured.
Harvey, in response to queries from the Cayman Compass about the incident, said a local tour guide had reported a stingray was hit by a propeller after a boat reversed onto the sandbar in very shallow water.
“Before anyone could investigate the stingray’s injury, she swam away from the sandbar and hasn’t been seen since despite efforts to find her over the weekend. It is believed to have been a stingray referred to fondly as ‘Ginger’ by tour boat operators as one of the largest females that visit the site,” she said.
Harvey added that another male stingray was also seen with an injury in late November.
Its wound, she said, appeared to be healing.
A viral photograph was circulated recently on social media with a stingray being held out of the water.
The DoE said this behaviour was unacceptable. It has reminded visitors and tour operators about the importance of observing the stingray and starfish rules when interacting with local wildlife.
“These incredible creatures are extremely important to our environment and the Cayman economy,” Harvey said. “We need to work together to take better care of them. If illegal activity is taking place, please report it immediately to the Marine Police, DoE and GHOF, ideally with photographic evidence as it is much more difficult to enforce without it. Thank you to those who reported the incident and who have been helping to look for the ray,” said Harvey.
Coast Guard leaders last week indicated that staff will be patrolling the WIZs.
Harvey added that the DoE has reiterated that every person visiting the Wildlife Interaction Zone needs to watch the GHOF/DoE video on stingray handling and WIZ regulations.
“This is a video that is freely available and clearly outlines how to behave at the sandbar to maintain safety for the stingrays and the guests who visit. Though stingrays sometimes stick their head out the water on their own accord to get food, no person should purposefully expose the spiracles above the surface of the water,” she said.
If sunblock is needed, Harvey advised, people should use reef-friendly sunblock and wash their hands properly before handling any ray.