Local artist triggers petition for conservation law
(CNS): Guy Harvey has joined the growing chorus of voices pressuring the Cayman government to pass the National Conservation Law. The internationally renowned marine wildlife artist is leading a petition drive asking government to immediately put the law into effect following the recent discovery of several stingrays from Cayman’s famous Sandbar at a captive dolphin facility. Harvey is now publicly backing the law as it will close the loophole that currently only protects stingrays from being taken when they are actually in Cayman’s designated Wildlife Interaction Zones. The petition was launched earlier this month and at the time of posting this story had attracted just over 1,200 names. (Photo Claudio Gazzaroli - Barcroft media)
Harvey’s campaign, which is targeting 10,000 people, comes after the four tagged rays found at Dolphin Discovery were returned to the wild after a public outcry. However, the facility still holds six other rays that were not tagged but were believed to have been taken from local waters. Dolphin Discovery is holding on to the six untagged stingrays.
“The well-being of stingrays affects every single person in the Cayman Islands,” said Harvey, as he pointed to the half a million visitors per year from around the world that come to swim and interact with the rays at the famous natural attraction. “By signing this petition you are speaking out against the unconscionable acts of harming stingrays, especially when taking them out of their natural habitat,” Harvey added. “Maintaining the ecological health of these stingray populations for the long-term will require management and conservation programs based on a thorough knowledge of the biology of these animals.”
Harvey was involved in local research work on the Cayman stingray population this year in which anecdotal evidence that the population at the Sand Bar and Stingray city was in decline was confirmed.
The Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) based at Nova Southeastern University conducted a census in January and sampled only 61 rays in the standard three-day research period at the Sandbar, which represents a significant 38% decrease in number of rays compared to the last census in 2008. This summer GHRI returned with the support of the Georgia Aquarium veterinary staff.
Over three days the team, working with Department of Environment staff and several volunteers, sampled 57 rays, down from 61 in January, and found only 5 males at the Sandbar .
The team spent a day at the original Stingray City and sampled 11 rays, including 2 males. They also sampled 3 rays at Rum Point, including one male, bringing the total to 71 rays sampled. However, the low number of males generally is cause for concern.
“These iconic animals have given so much to benefit the Cayman Islands that it's time the government returned the favour by immediately approving the National Conservation Law,” said Harvey.
Successive governments have continued to stall on the NCL, despite the wide support for its implementation and a critical need for legislation to protect Cayman's threatened natural resources.
The proposed legislation covers the marine environment but also deals with Cayman’s land-based resources, much of which is seriously endangered from a range of threats, in particular the persistent and relentless pace of development. Although successive governments have discussed the implementation of an environmental law for over a decade, none have had the political will to see it through because of strong opposition based on the misguided claim that it would stop all development.
Meanwhile, as the fight continues to protect all of Cayman’s wildlife, the Sandbar received extremely positive coverage in the UK media Monday, when the Daily Mail published a collection of beautiful photographs from the Sandbar and Stingray City by photographer Claudio Gazzaroli. The collection of pictures depicts just how unique and beautiful the attraction is.
Sign the petition here.
See Daily Mail article here.
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