and water sports operators in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands,
reported no negative feedback or tour cancellations as a result
of a freak accident in which Steve Irwin,
Australia's khaki-clad wildlife star and spokesman, died from a
Irwin, known as the
Crocodile Hunter, died Sept. 4 when a stingray's poisonous barb
pierced him in the chest while he was filming an underwater
documentary off the coast of Cairns on the Great
Barrier Reef in Australia.
Stingray City in
Grand Cayman, one of the most popular attractions in the
destination for both cruise and land-based visitors, is a string of
shallow sand bars that cross the North Sound.
gathered in the area for years to feed on the guts of fish cleaned
by fishermen. In the late 1980s, divers started feeding squid to
Now, dozens of rays
congregate each day looking for and getting
handouts from the visitors who snorkel, dive or tour the
area in glass-bottom boats.
Water sports and dive
operators in Grand Cayman agreed that Irwin's death was a fluke
accident by a normally placid sea creature.
president of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, called Irwin's
death "a tragic loss of a passionate environmentalist."
chairman of CITA's Watersports Committee, pointed out that "not all
stingrays are the same, and there are about 200 species of
He added: "Australia
is home to some of the deadliest creatures on the planet. Many of
their less harmful cousins live in the Caribbean and other parts of
The barb in a stingray
can take a long time to grow, according to Broadbelt. "It is
thought that the use of this barb is only as a last resort in
situations where the stingray fears for its life."
Broadbelt also pointed
out that the effect of Irwin's death on local tour operators to
Stingray City "is expected to be minimal. The short-term effect is
more likely to be with snorkelers than with divers --divers tend to
be more educated about marine creatures and have a better
understanding of hazardous marine life."
The CITA official did,
however, cite the need to regulate the procedures used by
individuals at Stingray City, noting that the "manhandling of
stingray and lifting them from the water is both cruel and
Broadbelt called for
implementation of recommendations "to protect and manage our
Meanwhile, at Red Sail
Sports, Sunset House Divers, Ocean Frontiers and Bayside Water
Sports [all operators that offer trips to
Stingray City], no cancellations were reported
and each operator sent out at least three boatloads of tourists to
Stingray City the day following Irwin's death.
triggered an outpouring of tributes within Australia and around the
Tim Fischer, chairman
of Tourism Australia, said that Irwin "had done much to help the
momentum of tourism in Australia."
Irwin was director
of the Australia Zoo in Queensland; a popular figure on
international TV for his handling of wildlife, especially the
capture and relocation of crocodiles; and was known worldwide for
his use of the catch phrase, "Crikey".
contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].