The Cayman Islands are home to two of the world's best known dive and snorkel sites, Stingray City and the Sandbar, where large numbers of southern stingrays (Dasyatis americana) aggregate in response to feeding by dive operators. These sites attract nearly half a million visitors per year from around the world who enjoy a unique educational experience interacting with these charismatic animals.
There are concerns, however, that extensive human interaction and supplemental feeding almost daily may be having subtle negative impacts on the behavior and general ecology of the stingrays. Maintaining the biological health of these stingray populations for the long-term will require management and conservation programs based on a thorough knowledge of the biology of these animals.
To gain a better understanding of stingray biology and aid in conservation efforts, scientists at the GHRI are conducting research on the behavior, reproduction, genetics and population characteristics of the southern stingrays in the Cayman Islands and Caribbean.
The stingray research project will be continued over two years to confirm the above observations and collect additional information for conservation efforts. New studies will include longer-term monitoring of animal movement patterns and a more detailed assessment of the genetic uniqueness of the Cayman Island stingrays relative to other Caribbean Islands