The Department of Environment will not be issuing any new licences for Stingray City.
This came as Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour announced a temporary moratorium on licences, Thursday evening in the Legislative Assembly.
He said the action follows “numerous observations and complaints” made to the Department of Environment and the Ministry of Tourism.
The freeze effectively caps the total number of licensed operators at the popular Wildlife Interaction Zone at 209, the current number of licencees.
Seymour said the decision to institute the freeze was taken after careful consideration and investigation.
“The ministry knows the efforts that [have] been made by the DoE and the current constraints it has on them, so we have teamed up with the Coast Guard attachment to assist us in upholding this moratorium and capping policy,” Seymour told the House.
Opposition Leader Arden McLean said the issue was one of lack of enforcement, since there are rules in place for the operation of the WIZ.
The issue of indiscriminate behaviour and lack of observance of the WIZ rules at Stingray City has also been flagged by Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell on several occasions, the most recent during Finance Committee when he urged Coast Guard intervention to assist with patrols.
“We believe it is something that has to be monitored on a continuous basis. This [moratorium] we think, is a prudent way to start, as we say, taking back Stingray City and the WIZ zones,” Kirkconnell said following Seymour’s statement.
The freeze on licences also follows reports last week of two stingrays being injured by boats at the Sandbar.
Kirkconnell said from his ministry’s standpoint the moratorium is an opportunity to stop and “take a look at where we are and what is needed”.
Councillor for the Environment Captain Eugene Ebanks has been working alongside the ministry, Seymour said, to adapt some strict policies for boating safety in Cayman waters.
“His endeavour is to have proper training classes for all boat captains in all sizes, and also issue a boat captain licence to all who are successful. We are also aware of proper boating etiquette with items such as lighting for night use etc.,” the minister added.
For his part, Ebanks said North Sound operators are being squeezed out of business given the current operation of the WIZ.
“We cannot continue to allow every Tom, Dick and Harry to do as they choose and push and continue to push these little, those North Sound operators out of business. They are the ones who created the biggest tourist attraction in the Cayman Islands and yet they are being pushed out of business because they cannot compete with the multi-million dollar operators who already control Seven Mile Beach,” Ebanks argued as he made a statement on the issue in the LA.
House Speaker McKeeva Bush, following both statements, made a plug for the cruise berthing project, saying that if Cayman has the piers, the cruise passengers could get to Stingray City faster.
Wildlife Interaction Zone rules
Under the WIZ rules, licensed vessels are not permitted to carry paying passengers into the Sandbar area of the wildlife interaction zone after 2pm on weekends and 3pm on public holidays.
Licensed vessels are not permitted to carry more than 100 people per trip into the Sandbar area, regardless of the total capacity of the vessel.
Licenced vessels are also not permitted to discharge paying passengers into the Sandbar area of the wildlife zone if there are more than 1,500 people already in the area, and if more than 20 licensed tourist boats are in the area, and should remain at the Sandbar area of the WIZ zone no more than one hour per visit.
9 new permits granted by the DoE and 4 renewals – Total 13
26 new and 43 renewals – Total 69
46 new Jan to Oct, and 79 renewals – Total 125
Total current licences: 209