Without Stingray City attraction, the DoE feeds, plays with rays
Image source: The Cayman Islands Department of the Environment (DoE)
Given restricted marine activity due to COVID-19, The Cayman Islands Department of the Environment (DoE) has assumed responsibility for the ongoing and regular additional feeding and human interaction with the stingrays at Sand Bar Stingray City.
After Shelter in Place regulations had been put in place, concerns had been expressed that without the ongoing and regular extra feeding and human interaction, the rays would lose their site fidelity and learned human interaction abilities, essentially reverting to wild rays and potentially leading to the loss of the Sandbar attraction.
While the DoE believes that the rays’ learned behaviour will not be eroded in the short-term, out of an abundance of caution it has committed to continue to reinforce the rays’ association between boats/humans and food with a regular feeding schedule in place.
Each day between 10 am and 1 pm, the DoE feeds approximately 5-20 lbs of appropriate food, usually squid, to rays present at the Sand Bar. This feeding typically takes place for about half an hour and has been followed by 10 minutes of constant stingray/human contact.
When the DoE boat arrives, there are sometimes as few as only one stingray present at the sand bar. But this number quickly escalates at feeding time and at the time of departure there are typically up to 25 rays present.
The DoE reports that the rays have completely and strongly got used to the DoE Guardian vessel arrival and time. They continue to be strongly drawn to boat traffic and on occasions when a second DoE boat has been present, stingrays leave the feeding boat to investigate the newcomer, just as they would under normal tourism conditions.
The government has committed to continue to reinforce the rays association between boats/ humans and food with a regular feeding schedule until marine curfew restrictions are relaxed and the private sector can resume visiting the site.