September 28, 2020

Stingray Conservation and Ecology Research: Cayman Islands Stingray City needs policing

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ghri_rp3Marine biologist Dr. Guy Harvey believes Stingray City needs to be more closely monitored and says when it comes to protecting Cayman’s natural treasure, saving money should not enter the equation. The value of the Sandbar is so large to this country that it’s worth every penny. We could have a rotation out there of different law enforcement officers and it would still be worth it because this interaction generate between $30, $40 $50 million each year.”

Speaking on CITN/Cayman27 last Wednesday (21) he said:

“I firmly believe that the government needs to have some enforcement presence out there. It doesn’t matter what it costs. The value of the Sandbar is so large to this country that it’s worth every penny. We could have a rotation out there of different law enforcement officers and it would still be worth it because this interaction generate between $30, $40 $50 million each year.”

From Nova Southeastern University/ Guy Harvey Research Institute

People swimming with stingrays in ocean The Cayman Islands are home to two of the world’s best known dive and snorkel sites, Stingray City and the Sandbar, where large numbers of southern stingrays (Dasyatis americana) aggregate in response to feeding by dive operators. These sites attract nearly half a million visitors per year from around the world who enjoy a unique educational experience interacting with these charismatic animals.

Stingrays in oceanThere are concerns, however, that extensive human interaction and supplemental feeding almost daily may be having subtle negative impacts on the behavior and general ecology of the stingrays. Maintaining the biological 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.

To gain a better understanding of stingray biology and aid in conservation efforts, scientists at the GHRI are conducting research on the behavior, reproduction, genetics and population characteristics of the southern stingrays in the Cayman Islands and Caribbean.
Stingray Project Results to Date

Divers documenting stingray research
Six months of tagging data indicate a population size of 144 -147 stingrays at the Sandbar, with females almost six times more abundant than males.

Examination of reproductive characteristics indicates that pregnant females are found from at least February to September at the Sandbar.

Analysis of length of male reproductive appendages (claspers) relative to size of males (disc width) indicates that males become reproductively mature at 47 cm disc size ( see graph).

Female southern stingrays mate with multiple males, as revealed by underwater videographical documentation of mating behavior in this species. For a sequence of mating events in the wild, please download our Stingray mating video.

Preliminary data obtained from tracking the stingrays with ultrasonic transmitters at the Sandbar and Stingray City indicate that males move over larger ranges than females (See movement tracks).

Initial comparison of movement patterns of human fed stingrays with unfed stingrays shows some evidence that unfed animals may have larger movement ranges than fed animals.

Preliminary analysis of stingray DNA suggests that the Cayman stingrays are more closely related to stingrays from the Bahamas and Antigua than to Belize animals.

The stingray research project will be continued over two years to confirm the above observations and collect additional information for conservation efforts. New studies will include longer-term monitoring of animal movement patterns and a more detailed assessment of the genetic uniqueness of the Cayman Island stingrays relative to other Caribbean Islands
For more info: http://www.nova.edu/ocean/ghri/research/stingray-conservation-ecology-research.html

What is the Guy Harvey Research Institute?

The GHRI is a scientific research organization based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, at the Oceanographic Center of Nova Southeastern University, minutes from coral reefs and popular fishing grounds. GHRI was established in 1999 as a collaboration between the renowned marine artist Dr. Guy Harvey and NSU’s Oceanographic Center to assume a leadership role in providing the scientific information necessary to understand and save the world’s fish resources and biodiversity from drastic, ongoing declines. GHRI is one of only a handful of private organizations dedicated exclusively to expanding the scientific knowledge base needed for effective conservation of fish populations and maintenance of fish biodiversity.
IMAGES: GHRI

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