Can I feed cheese to fish in Cayman’s waters?

| 30/07/2019

Is it OK to spray canned cheese into the water to attract fish when snorkelling? I’ll be coming to visit the Cayman Islands soon and I’ve heard that the fish really love that stuff but not sure that is a good idea.

Ask Auntie, CNS Local Life, Caymanian status

Auntie’s answer: Well, from a purely common-sense standpoint, it is hard for me to fathom how anyone would think that a cheese product that comes out of a can (or any kind of cheese for that matter) would be something that is healthy for a fish to eat. But just for the sake of absolute clarity, I asked the Department of Environment (DoE) for an official response to your question.

Most importantly, under the National Conservation Law, it is illegal to feed fish or any marine life outside of a Wildlife Interaction Zone (WIZ), and there are only two of those in Grand Cayman – Stingray City and the Sandbar in the North Sound. Even then, only squid and ballyhoo, a baitfish, are allowed to be used as food. “These are the closest things to ‘natural’ foods which are also easily available to the public, but still not ideal as they are not the regular diet of local animals,” a DoE official explained.

There are very good reasons for the ban on feeding the fish, which the DoE pointed out. “Fish feeding in general causes a multitude of issues, not just for the fish but for the public. This is why feeding is regulated through the WIZ,” the official said. “Fish and other marine life can have trouble digesting processed foods (like bread and Cheese Whiz) and this can affect the animals’ health over time. Unhealthy animals can have weakened immune systems, making them more susceptible to diseases and requiring more time to heal from injuries.”

In addition, “Feeding alters the animals’ behaviour and makes them less afraid of people, which causes them to venture closer to humans and makes them easier to catch.” Anyone who has paid a visit to the stingrays in the Sound would be very familiar with this phenomenon, as the stingrays immediately start to gather when the boats arrive at the Sandbar, having been conditioned by the sound of the engines to expect food.

But in a non-stingray scenario, feeding marine animals could make it more likely that someone gets bitten or injured and “can be extremely dangerous if the feeding involves a large apex predator, such as a moray eel, barracuda or shark”. If the animal remains less afraid of humans, “it can lead – over time – to certain sites becoming unsafe for people”.

One last point is that if the feeding continues over a long-enough time, the animals could become reliant on people for food and wind up waiting to be fed. If that occurs, the result is they won’t be eating their normal prey and therefore not fulfilling their role in the ecosystem, which could have “negative knock-on effects for other animals/systems”.

So there you are. While I appreciate that tourists are excited to snorkel here, please keep the cans of that yellow stuff and all other potential food items for our marine life home. I’m sure you will encounter enough of our colourful fish while simply swimming around our pristine – and I hope cheese-free – waters.

The law mentioned above can be found on the CNS Library

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Category: Ask Auntie, Environment, Environmental Questions, Marine Environment

Comments (7)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Just bring squid with you or other forms of fish food.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I don’t see the problem with it at all. I regularly feed cheese to the fish! I swear some of these nuisance laws are out of date.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Only with a nice chianti.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If this is the case, how is it possible that the restaurants located on the waterfront have nightly tarpon feedings?

  5. Anonymous says:

    But most waterfront restaurants have fish feeding. Are you saying that’s illegal?

  6. Anonymous says:

    You have won the internet today with your stupidity. Congratulations!!

    Thanks for playing.

    People shouldn’t even eat that stuff, I cannot fathom why you would spray it in a marine environment and hope that a fish gobbles it up for your entertainment.

  7. Anonymous says:

    They feed food to tarpons and other fish every night at Rackams on the water front as an attraction. So that is illegal?