There's a new paper from Guy Harvey's team about Cayman Island's hugely successful wild animals encounter, "Stingray City" and what rampant and uncontrolled commercialism of species does to feeding and movement patterns.

Oh and it's not good, in fact it reads like an old school NY Mob Indictment:

"We saw some very clear and very prominent behavioral changes, and were surprised by how these large animals had essentially become homebodies in a tiny area," says study co-author Mahmood Shivji, director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute and NSU Oceanographic Center professor, who led the study."

Ok, so we knew this was an issue going back to 2009 but what of the broader implications of this report?

Equally not good, not good for tourism, not good for the Cayman Islands, and not good for commercial shark diving.

Shark diving you ask? Yes.

Commercial shark diving has struggled over the past decade for relevance and acceptance in the broader tourism space. Resorts and developments still do not want shark diving in their waters but might consider a home spun Stingray City as a gateway to shark diving down the road. In fact we know of three large chain resorts and two cruise lines who are in development stages right now for wild encounters with Stingrays based on the Cayman model.

We have no doubt that a few will drop out of planned Stingray encounters based on this report and that has implications for commercial shark diving. It might be suggested that sharks are also being conditioned in a similar manner - you know that old chestnut.

Regardless, for resort and developments to accept commercial shark diving they must first become accustomed to for profit wild animal encounters that directly benefit the resort, not a third party tourism offering, but an actual on site encounter model.

You may also ask why it is important for resorts and developments to even care about commercial shark diving. Because once they become invested in the oceans they also become good stewards of the oceans. Resorts foster and protect sustainable and revenue generating tourism offerings, so to have resorts care about regional shark populations - is a net positive for sharks.

What's happening at the Caymans is rampant and unchecked, the study results show as much, but consider the lost opportunities of those who now will not choose to engage in wild animal encounters based on raw data vs a best practices outline which tempers wild animal encounters with common animal protocols.

Wild animal encounters are not a perfect match. They never have been, some are better then others, some, like the Caymans, are in desperate need of hard and fast rules and regulations. One thing that is not up for debate is the continuing and evolving need for broad based best practices leadership in the wild animal encounter space.

A road map if you will, covering all species that might be commercialized. We have it for manatees, we have it for whales and dolphins, we even have it for whale sharks.

Stingrays? Anyone?

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at