Following a number of reports of people abusing local marine animals in and around some of Grand Cayman’s favourite attractions, the Department of Environment (DoE) is urging people to follow the law in local waters regarding the handling of starfish, stingrays, turtles and other marine life. In the last month the DoE has received reports of a diver grabbing a sea turtle by its carapace, Sandbar visitors lifting stingrays out of the water, and starfish being picking up for significant periods at Starfish Point. All of these activities have the potential to harm the creatures.
The DoE said that any interactions with marine life happening outside of a designated Wildlife Interaction Zones (WIZ), as defined under the National Conservation Law (NCL), are not permitted.
“Elasmobranchs, such as stingray, echinoderms or starfish and sea turtles are resilient creatures but they can still be severely injured by mishandling,” said DoE Deputy Director Tim Austin. “Wildlife Interaction Zones (WIZs) were developed under the NCL specifically to permit individuals to safely interact with wildlife in our wonderful marine environment, not abuse it.”
Under the NCL, local watersports and dive shop operators who take tours to the two WIZ areas 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.
“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,” said Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour in a press release from the department. “We must treat these animals with care and respect if we want them to stay around.”
Despite these comments, since he took over the environment portfolio the minister has shown no inclination to deal with the pressing need to enhance Cayman’s marine parks to increase the protection of endangered local marine life.