DoE to spell out safe handling of marine life

| 04/03/2019 | 21 Comments
Cayman News Service

Mishandling of stingrays (Photo courtesy DoE)

(CNS): With increasing reports of the mishandling and abuse of marine animals, such as starfish and stingrays, the Department of Environment is introducing definitive guidelines to help tour operators protect the species that are under increasing stress. Mishandling them could spell trouble for tour operators, who could lose their licence or face prosecution for the abuse. While touching rays will still be allowed, officials are keen to stop the more aggressive handling and find ways to enforce the law.

At a meeting of the National Conservation Council last week the DoE unveiled the proposed new guidelines, which are based on research and advice from stingray experts about the long-term effects the conditions at the sandbar have on them, which, they said, is not unlike keeping them in captivity.

While the DoE said that the rays at Stingray City are an “indisputably invaluable natural resource for the Cayman Islands”, it is important that the tourist interaction with them does not cause harm.

Lifting the animals out the water and bending them in any way are serious areas of concerns, the DoE scientists said. They also want to encourage people going to the Sand Bar not to apply sunscreen when handling the animals.

“A single incident of mishandling may not result in immediately apparent harm, but the same rays are handled several times daily and impacts such as from bending, lifting while pregnant, sunscreen and scratches can be cumulative and long-term,” the draft guidelines state.

The draft guidelines show a catalog of images of animals being mishandled but also show what is reasonable and acceptable. They define the lifting of rays out of the water as ‘take’, which means people can be prosecuted.

Any elevation of the stingray which causes the spiracles, eyes, mouth or gills to be held out of the water, holding rays so their wing slaps against a person’s body, bending the rays or gripping the fins to immobilise them and interaction with the mid-line of the stingray will all be considered ‘take’ to allow for prosecution.

Similar guidance and instructions on handling starfish have also been drawn up in an effort to protect these creatures, which are also protected and can be stressed by mishandling.

People who see illegal handling are now being encouraged to report it to the DoE via email at, including a picture of the observed action, date and location and information on the suspected offender.

See draft guidelines in the CNS Library

The the full agenda noted of the NCC meeting here

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (21)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Sure, blur his face, that helps. When people post dated images of mishandling, what else do police need? Dated pictures of conch and lobster taken out of season? Obviously not worried about prosecution. Speaking of which, when was the last time someone was prosecuted? The last one I remember was 6 months ago and he was let off with less than a 200 dollar fine for well over 100 conch. Now that is real deterrence.

    Caymanians that want to eat conch and lobster in the future better wake up to what the poachers are doing. Killing them by the hundreds all week.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Tour operators could lead lose their license? Will not happen and if it does, they will just continue to operate. It is disgustingly stupid how some of these so called “guides” are handling the rays. A sting in the chest might be their only chance for relief from these idiots.

    • Anonymous says:

      7:05 It’s already happened to one Honduran guide and I’ve seen the photos of it. He took the stinger right through the side of his lower abdomen. Apparently there have also been a number of other injuries to both guides and visitors. The reason you never hear about things like this is because the watersports operators cover it up. Do you remember the serious moray attack in 2007? That was a guide feeding the thing but I think the only media outlet that ever reported it was Net News and even they only found out about it weeks after the actual incident.

  3. Anonymous says:

    You can clearly see the stingray on the left is frowning, the one on the right doesn’t look too happy either.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Starfish shouldn’t be handled at all, it is illegal already but it’s not properly enforced.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is going to put a damper on my tour ticket sales.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It is ABOUT TIME!!!!!!!!

    • Put me down! says:

      You mean it’s about the second time!!!! We’ve been here before. Let’s see where this boat sails.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The ignorance and stupidity of these people who mishandle the stingrays really irks me. The tourists are at Stingray City for the stingrays and not for the people who abuse them. Abusing the nature that is the basis of the tourist attraction is so self-destructive and dumb it beggars belief..

  8. Anonymous says:

    Now let’s enforce it and not give warnings. That goes for the inbred poachers too.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t tell you when to go to work, don’t tell me when to work and not work. I’ll keep fishing when I want. Now stop putting down Caymanians trying to make a living.

      • Anonymous says:

        Trying to make a living, are you serious? If you’re taking out of season, in excess of your allowance or in the wrong area, you are a thief and against Caymanian people who want to preserve and maintain a healthy marine environment.
        It’s not yours to take bobo.

      • Anonymous says:

        You’re inbred and obviously it’s affected your brain to not understand why you can only take during certain times. If your family only lives off lobster and conch and you have no way to acquire other food I’m really worried for your well being. Don’t procreate, don’t pass go, let the line end with you and your ignorance. Ripieces poacher scum.

        • Anonymous says:

          I fish to sell. The demand is huge from ALL walks of life. Yes, even some people you might recognize!

          • Anonymous says:

            @ 7pm I’m Caymanian and I have to say that you’re the type that ruin it for everyone. I love to fish and dive recreationally. I also teach my children to abide by the marine conservation laws just as my father taught me and I hope they’ll teach their children one day providing that A$$holes like you don’t wipe out everything by then!
            There is nothing wrong with being a fisherman but for heavens sakes do it properly and most importantly legally. What you have to realize is when you take out of season and in marine parks you are damaging/destroying the breeding stocks for future! It’s people like you that spoil the open season to honest people who go diving and cant find a thing almost the reef except for dozens of popped conch shells.

      • Anonymous says:

        Your spelling is remarkably good , but your ignorance is also remarkably high. I entrust high regard to enforcement of marine park laws and seasonal restriction , coming soon to a boat ramp near you.

        • Lobster Roll says:

          It’s a big sea. Good luck with the keystone cop style “enforcement.”

          • Anonymous says:

            Ahh, but it’s not a big Sandbar and that’s the point of the article. It is absolutely enforceable if government really want it to be and water sports operators are forced to comply with the law.
            But this is Cayman, where connections and interests take priority over law and order.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Great news for the marine life, it’s a start. Now let’s see some fines being placed on these ignorant tour operators in the headlines! The only way their behavior will change is to show accountability for their actions!!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    This isn’t rocket science. The DoE need to send an “fair warning” email to all registered and licensed sandbar operators with notice that a field warden will be installed at sandbar for a period of time of their choosing with a ticket book and handing out fines. These companies will learn fast out of necessity – with previously fined leading the self-enforcement and reporting going forward. But if DoE continue not to show up, or aren’t penalizing, then we get what we have right now = a free-for-all where passenger headcount is all that matters.

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