On Thursday Dec 5th a joint statement proposing new regulations for the usage of Stingray City and Cayman’s broader Wild Life Interaction Zone was proffered in the Legislative Assembly by the Minister for the Environment the Honorable Dwayne Seymour and JP Councilor for the Environment, Captain Eugene Ebanks.
In communicating the need for a moratorium on licenses in the industry, the Minister noted: “After numerous observations and complaints, the ministry of Environment in consultation with the Minister of Tourism - after careful consideration and investigation in regards to the Wild Life Interaction Zone/“WIZ” and especially the stingray city - has decided to place a temporary moratorium and Cap the amounts of boats and passengers that visit on a daily basis.”
“The ministry knows the efforts that have been made by the DOE and their current constraints…. So we have teamed up with the coast guard attachment to assist us in upholding this moratorium and capping policy,” noted Mr Seymour.
There are currently around 200 boats registered to operate in the Stingray City area.
Currently vessels are not be permitted to carry paying passengers into the sand bar area of the wildlife interaction zone after 2:00pm on weekends and 3:00pm on public holidays.
Licensed vessels are also not permitted to carry more than 100 people per trip into the sand bar area of the wildlife interaction zone, regardless of the total capacity of the vessel.
Licensed vessels are also not permitted to discharge paying passengers into the sand bar area of the wildlife zone, if there are more than 1500 people already in the area or if more than 20 licensed tourist boats in the area, and should not remain at the sand bar area of the WIZ for more than one hour per visit.
The Minister outlined what he said were the issues affecting Caymanian boat operators in the North Sound.
“We have seen advantage taken of them by the system where the hotel business for the 7 mile beach only go to one or two well-known and more financially able Water-sports operators,” declared Mr. Seymour, who added that the same operators are now trying to grab up the majority business in the North Sound.
“We are taking the necessary steps to curb that practice to insure that our Caymanian boat operators are not disadvantaged and Regulations and rules are being made to enable the necessary changes,” note the Bodden Town representative.
He explained that he was “quite confident” that the new measure would not only give clear guidelines to the operators but also to add a sense of safety and security for visitors, whilst creating a better and more intimate experience.
The Minister advised the ‘Honorable House’, that the Councilor for the Environment Captain Eugene Ebanks had also been working, alongside the Ministry to adopt strict policies in boating safety on our Cayman waters.
“His endeavor is to have proper training classes for all boat Captain’s in all sizes, and also issue boat captain licenses to all who are successful.
“We are also aware of proper boating etiquette with items such as lighting for night use, etc.”
Mr. Seymour praised the collaborative effort of the Port authority, The Department Of Environment and the Coast Guard.
“I want to thank everyone for their understanding and patience during this moratorium,” he said.
Captain Eugene Ebanks noted the importance of having Caymanians in the industry during his remarks.
“Even though we operate in a free enterprise economy, the indigenous North Sound operators are unique in their own way. We cannot continue to allow everyone to do as they chose and continue push these operators out of the business. They are the ones who created the biggest tourist attraction in the Cayman Islands.”
“When tourists go out with Caymanians they have a much better, more unique experience.” he said, adding that “Many people are operating boats for the first time when they come here.”
Earlier this year, a boating accident took the lives two lives in the North Sound.
“Something has to be done to curtail these dangers,” noted the Member from West Bay.
No date has been announced for the implementation of the moratorium but Speaker of the House, the Honorable McKeeva Bush has said on record that it would not be done until next year.