The island of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean is a lush resort that attracts the rich and famous. The multi-million dollar estates blend in with palm trees and white sand beaches. Seven Mile beach is “The” place to be seen.
A major attraction for the mildly adventurist tourist is a spot called Stingray City. For a few dollars of your vacation budget, you will be taken out to waist deep water with a guide. The reason is that this locale attracts beautiful gray stingrays. The aquatic animals cavort and seem to play with the visitors.
While it is a good way to learn about our sea friends, the practice is contrary to the eco-friendly approach of “Leave No Trace.” My main concern is the impact on the little rays. The oils transferred from human skin can build up and have an effect on the animals. Stingrays are part of the same family as sharks and do have a hard skin. However, underbelly areas are smooth to the touch. Zooming over kids at play is not in the sting ray’s normal behavior. Often guests sneak in food to attract the rays.
The point is an analogy to mountain squirrels. Cute to look at and fun to feed a morsel of bread. You leave and the little fellow stays around waiting for others to give him a handout. In time, when humans leave the park, the squirrel has not stored up supplies for winter and suffers.
Scuba divers know not to disturb the natural course of fish. No longer do we chase sea turtles for a ride. It’s time to stop petting stingrays.