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  This Letter appeared in the letters to the editor of The Cayman Net News, and The Caymanian Compass in March of 2002

Please check to find out more about my efforts to make sure the rays are properly treated.

"Dedicated to the responsible use of Stingray City"

"Stop the Carnival, leave the Stingrays in the water."


"There has been much controversy recently concerning Stingray City Sandbar and its use by different operators.  There have been many articles and letters to the editor discussing who has the right to the cruise ship tourist business and how it should be split up amongst the various operators.  There has also been much controversy over how many cruise ships a day is too many or if there is such a thing.  In this letter I do not attempt to address these issues or to take sides on them.  What I would like to address is the manner in which we treat this valuable resource: The Stingrays themselves. 

Stingray City Sandbar is a unique attraction. An attraction, which brings many tourists and their dollars to the Cayman Islands.  Without this attraction many thousands if not millions of dollars would be lost to Cayman.  I believe that no one would dispute that these rays are a valued and treasured natural resource, one that should be treated with respect not as a freak side show attraction in a carnival.

Stingrays are fish. And a fish out of water is a fish out of its natural element. Rays breath water through their gills extracting life-sustaining oxygen from the water.  Just as the human lungs cannot extract oxygen from water nor can the rays extract oxygen from air.  When a ray is removed from the water it is unable to control the oxygen intake.  The ray essentially is “drowning in air”, much the same as if you took a child and held it underwater.

On any given day at the sand bar you will see two types of “Stingray handlers” in the water with the tourists.

There are those who gently and respectfully hold the rays in the water, giving the tourist a chance to interact with the rays, photograph them, and learn to respect and enjoy them.

There are also those who lift the rays out of the water.  Holding them over their heads, or the heads of the tourists, in what is called the “Stingray Hat”. Or holding them out of the water using them as a “squirt gun” spraying the tourist as the ray desperately expels the last of the life giving water from their gills.  These handlers are in effect turning the rays in to a sideshow attraction.

Now I have heard the argument that “we have been doing this for years and the rays are all right.”   Need I remind you that for years the Grouper holes have been fished and there were still plenty of Groupers. Or “we have taken Conch, or lobster for years”.  I think any of you reading this will get the point.  We must not assume that just because we have done it in the past that it is all right to continue to do so.  It is my understanding that the research team, which is currently studying the Stingrays, has suggested that this practice should be banned, as should the wearing of any footwear at the sandbar.

I make my living at the sandbar taking and selling pictures of the tourists with the rays.  I refuse to take a picture of a ray out of the water.  I do not want these pictures going out to all corners of the world, sending the message that this is how we treat our marine life in the Cayman Islands.

I ask all the individuals that make their living at the sand bar to please.  “STOP The Carnival” leave the rays in the water where they belong.  I urge all owners and operators to insist that their crewmembers do not take the rays out of the water.  I ask all of the photographers and videographers to refuse to take picture of the rays being removed from the water.

We are putting more pressure on Stingray city now then ever in the past; there are more boats and more tourists every day on the sand bar. If we are to continue to benefit from this wonderful and unique natural resource we must start now to treat the rays better.  Stop the carnival leave the rays in the water."

Len Layman

 Please check to find out more about my efforts to make sure the rays are properly treated.

"Dedicated to the responsible use of Stingray City"

If you are going to visit Grand Cayman make sure that you go to Stingray City.  You will have one of the most memorable times of your life.  But PLEASE if the crew members on your tour are removing the rays from the water let them know it is wrong.  If they will not listen to reason maybe they will listen to their customers.  

Thanks Len

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Copyright(c) 2002 Len Layman