Stingrays weren't protected on the islands until this year.
"For years, we tried the route of self-regulation," said Charles Clifford, Cayman Islands' Minister of Environment. "It became abundantly clear that in the absence of legislation there was little that could be done to properly regulate activities at these locations."
In March 2013, new regulations designated the popular Sandbar and Stingray City tourist attractions as Wildlife Interaction Zones. The new regulations guard the rays by controlling the way people interact with them, protecting the reefs and natural environment in and around the designated zones, and licensing the tourist boats that enter these areas.
"My conservative estimates assume 400,000 people visit the Sandbar each year," said Harvey. "Paying $40 per head, that puts the value of each ray at $500,000 per year. They are slow growing, long-lived animals and so in 20 years they can generate the country between $10,000,000 to $15,000,000 each."
Stingrays are not endangered, but because of their celebrity status they earned protection. The handling of rays by tour operators has improved lately because of guidelines drawn up by the Department of Environment. Tour operators can no longer lift stingrays out of the water for moves like the "Stingray Sombrero."