GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands -- With news of a second overseas stingray attack in a month, tourism officials in the Cayman Islands are saying that there is no reason to panic, as the local attractions are safe.
Plans are afoot to even make the local Stingray City attraction even safer, despite its outstanding record, said Government Minister Hon Charles Clifford, following the latest incident in the US.
Last month, Australian naturalist Steve Irwin was stabbed to death by a huge stingray in Australia, leading to worldwide concerns about the safety of guests who swim with the rays.
The death of the 44-year-old ‘TV Crocodile Hunter’ sent shockwaves all over the world, given his daring encounters and antics with the world’s fiercest animals.
Last week the second stabbing occurred in the United States when 81-year-old James Bertakis became a victim of a leaping stingray in Florida.
According to US authorities, the Florida boater was stabbed in the chest by a stingray, leaving its poisonous stinger lodged close to his heart.
Tourism Minister, Hon Charles Clifford, said that despite the two unfortunate incidents in other parts of the globe, the local Stingray City attraction is safe and its record speaks for itself.
Mr Clifford said that a lot of care and attention is taken by the Government and other stakeholders in keeping the local interactive attraction safe for all guests.
He said the Government is going a step further by beefing up legislation to ensure that the attraction maintains the highest standards and offers the best quality.
He said that the Legislative Assembly would debate the draft legislation next month and he was expecting it to become law soon.
Mr Bertakis was said to be in a small recreational boat with two grandchildren on Tuesday when a spotted eagle ray leaped aboard and struck him.
Officials in Miami classified the incident as ‘just a real freak thing’ which occurred on Florida’s Intra-costal waterway, where stingrays are rarely seen leaping into the air.
Mr Bertakis was expected to make a full recovery after surgery at a Florida hospital to have the stinger removed from his chest.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Watersports Committee of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, Stephen Broadbelt, said that the local stingrays are not aggressive and it is safe to interact with them on Island.
“As operators, we allow the stingrays to come to us, therefore the stingrays are not threatened and not aggressive,” he said.
“Yet, being used to both divers and snorkelers, the stingrays at Stingray City and Sandbar will closely interact with all visitors in a positive manner.”
Mr Broadbelt further explained that, “The barb in a stingray can take a long time to grow and it’s thought that the use of this is only a last resort in situations that the stingray is in fear of its life.
“Stingrays only use their venomous barb for self-defence from natural predators. If a stingray is forced into a corner by an over-enthusiastic snorkeler or diver, the stingray will feel threatened,” he added.
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