(CMR) A moratorium has been placed on the issuance of any further commercial licenses for boats headed for the islands's top tourist attraction due to overcrowding with the local coastguard stepping in to assist with enforcement. This comes days after the Department of Environment (DoE) reported that several stingrays were injured last weekend.
Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour made the announcement on Thursday that trips to the Sandbar and Stingray City would now be capped. He explained during the legislative assembly session that DoE would be getting the coastguard to enforce the moratorium.
Over 200 boats are already licensed to provide trips to paying customers. The area is a Wild Life Interaction Zone which means that there should be a limit of 1,500 people at the location at any one time and only 20 boats. However, numerous reports of overcrowing have been reported.
Now, boats are limited to 100 passengers and they are barred from taking paying passengers into the Sandbar area after 2:00 pm on weekends and 3:00 pm on public holidays. Seymour stated that hotels appear to have the upper hand with booking tours and he hoped this would curtail that:
“Then the same operators are trying to grab up the majority business in the North Sound,” Seymour said. “We are taking the necessary steps to curb that practice to ensure that Caymanian boat operators are not disadvantaged. Regulations and rules are being made to enable the necessary changes.”
Seymour said new measures were being put in place giving clear guidelines to the users and a sense of safety and security to the visitors to our shores while creating a better and more intimate experience.
Capt Eugene Ebanks, his ministry councillor, has also been working on boating safety policies, paving the way for training for all boat captains to create new boat captain licences to those who are successful. Ebanks said that the problems in the North Sound go back a long way.
“We can’t continue to allow every Tom, Dick and Harry to do as they choose and continue to push these North Sound operators out of business.” They are the ones that created the biggest tourist attraction in the Cayman Islands who are being pushed out of the business because they cannot compete with the multi-million dollar operators who already control Seven Mile Beach businesses,”