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Posted on Aug 13, 2013 in Off The Hook, News
Counting Stingrays
by Sam Hudson
Guy Harvey Research Institute
Blood sample being taken from stingray.

The Guy Harvey Research Institute and Georgia Aquarium recently completed a 2013 census of the North Sound stingray population in the Cayman Islands. According to Guy Harvey, the results were positive.

That's good news because the economic health of the Cayman Islands relies heavily on stingray tourism.

"This animal has appeared in every single media advertisement and tourist guide about the Cayman Islands for the last 30 years," said biologist and marine artist Guy Harvey. "It's now on the new $50 note." 

The 2013 census ran for five days and was conducted by three vets from the Georgia Aquarium, Dr. Mahmood Shivji, the director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute, and Dr. Brad Wetherbee, a specialist from the University of Rhode Island. That's not including all of Cayman Islands' Department of Environment staff who helped too.

In all, 75 rays were sampled at the Sandbar, a popular tourist attraction on Grand Cayman. That's up from 57 stingrays in July 2012. Besides the usual DNA and blood samples, the vets used an ultrasound computer to detect pregnancy in rays. About 20 percent of the females sampled were pregnant.

"The site needs new animals to replace those that leave, or are eaten by natural predators," explained Harvey. 

The vets recommended that squid fed to the rays is not the best food nutritionally. There needs to be more fish added to their diet.

"An inexpensive way of to get fish is to collect cuttings and scraps from restaurants," said Harvey. "In addition, lionfish carcasses — spines removed — are slurped by the bigger rays."