Stingray Feeding in the Bahamas: Sustainable Tourism?

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Brooke Grant (Bahamas Weekly) writes about the West End Ecology Tours’ Stingray Feeding Experience, calling it “a new addition to the sustainable tourism product offering that is unique to Grand Bahama.” The West End Ecology Tours company is operated by West End residents Keith and Linda Cooper. Here is Grant’s description of the stingray feeding experience:

The four-hour experience begins at West End, with a 25-minute boat ride over to Sandy Cay, located just a few short miles off Grand Bahama’s west coast. This eco-lover’s paradise is home to flocks of native birds, including Red-breasted Merganser,Double Crested Cormorants, Great Blue Herons and Brown Pelicans, along with a variety of sea life – the biggest stars of them all being the Stingrays.

The tour allows guests to hand feed the stingrays, which, unlike many persons presume, are harmless. Keith takes his time with the guests to ensure that they are firstly educated on this species of fish which, he points out, are cousins to sharks, and then makes it his priority for guests to be as comfortable as possible, prior to the hand feeding experience.

Once guests are all warmed up, he shows each person, one by one, how to feed the stingrays, using smaller fish as bait. [. . .] Instead of throwing the food towards the stingrays, it is held between the fingers and placed underwater at the top of the sand, so as to lie in wait for the stingray, and then, just like that, the ray swims up and sucks the fish from between the feeder’s fingers.

When asked how the tour came about, Keith explains, “About nine years ago, during stopovers to Sandy Cay, a few stingrays came very close to our boat after my wife Linda and I went fishing. We soon discovered they were foraging for food”.  He added that, “Once I realized that it was food they were after, I decided to snorkel with them. It was at that moment I realized that these animals are not aggressive and decided to engage in research about the behaviour and habits of these magnificent animals”.

According to Keith, “We are proud to say that we have succeeded in bonding with a few of the rays and maintain a very careful balance of human interaction to allow the stingrays to continue their natural foraging and reproductive cycles”. [. . .]

For more information on the West End Ecology Tours, visit www.westendecologytours.com.

For full article, see http://www.thebahamasweekly.com/publish/ministry_of_tourism_updates/Stingray_Feeding_Added_to_Bahamas_Sustainable_Tourism_Product52302.shtml

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