The 2019 Guy Harvey Foundation Stingray census is now in the books and one of Cayman’s main attractions has seen record-breaking numbers in Stingrays.
Guy Harvey Foundation communications coordinator Louisa Gibson outlined the process.
“So we do the bi-annual survey twice a year, in January and in July and this was the second of the 2019 survey. What we do is we have a team of volunteers, and we go out over the course of three days. It’s called an exhaustive census where we process every Stingray that we can find until we can’t find anymore. We catch them by hand, transfer them into a salmon net and bring them on board the boat into a kitty pool, from there we cover the barb up so no one gets injured and then we start our processing, which includes measuring the Stingrays from wing to wing, and we recently started doing ultrasounds with all of the sexually matured Stingrays. So we have a wildlife vet that comes down from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay her name is Dr. Dominique Keller,” said Ms. Gibson.
Ms. Gibson said judging from the results, the population seems to be safe. “There was also an increased number of pregnancies. In the past, we calculated about 30% of the mature females being pregnant and this year it was 51%, and they had between one and five pups of all different stages of pregnancies, which was awesome,” said Ms. Gibson.
But that positive finding in the survey also revealed a negative trend.
“So we did notice an increasing number of injuries this time around. We removed a hook from one of the Stingrays at Rum Point and we hadn’t seen that Stingray before. So we did fit it with a tag. We also saw a few Stingrays at the sandbar with hooks in their mouth, also on their wings. We also saw a couple of injuries from what looked like nail scrapes and one Stingray stood out with what appeared to be a blunt force trauma and on one of its wings, so it does seem to be more injuries out there,” said Ms. Gibson. She added that the public should be mindful when engaging with Stingrays.
“Be aware of what you’re doing out there. If you’re throwing an anchor, look to see if there’s a Stingray there, if you’re turning on your engine, look to see if there’s a Stingray there. Try to stay away from the center of the Sandbar where it’s shallower because that might cause a boat to hit one of the Stingrays. There are so many things that need to be discussed in the future for the safety of the people visiting the sandbar and also for the safety of the Stingrays because the Sandbar is already at capacity. If you go out there at like 10 o’clock in the morning, it’s absolutely swamped with tourists,” said Ms. Gibson.
“So we surveyed four sites this year, including the Sandbar (Stingray City), Stingray City dive site, Coral Gardens, and Rum Point. It was the first time we’ve been to Coral Gardens and we did see Stingrays there that had moved from the Stingray City Sandbar. So we surveyed 127 Stingrays which is our highest number since the early days. At the Sandbar which is the most important site in terms of tourism, we surveyed 115 which was record-breaking. We saw 90 females and 25 males, showing an increase in the male population,” said Ms. Gibson.