The starfish of the Cayman Islands, particularly the Red Cushion or West Indian sea star (Oreaster reticulatus) at Starfish Point in the North Sound of Grand Cayman, are a beloved natural tourism and recreational resource to the Cayman Islands.
Echinoderms including starfish, sea eggs/urchins, sea cucumbers and sand dollars are protected species and may not be taken from Cayman waters at any time.
The National Conservation Act
The National Conservation Act, administered by the National Conservation Council, aims to promote and secure biological diversity and the sustainable use of natural resources in the Cayman Islands.
Under the National Conservation Act, 2013, ‘take’ means to “collect, hunt, kill, destroy, damage, injure, disturb, harass, harm, wound, capture, molest or impede a live specimen in any way or to attempt to do so, and includes incidental taking”.
While starfish (and some other Echinoderms) are known for their ability to withstand temporary removal from seawater and even the loss of limbs, such rough handling – as with any animal – would disturb and harass, if not outright injure it. Repeated or extreme mishandling of starfish can even kill them. Chronic mishandling can also result in damage which is not obvious to external observation and can cause starfish leave an area, such as Starfish Point.
While ‘no touch’ observation is always recommended, we recognise the public interest for education, commerce, and enjoyment in physically interacting with West Indian sea star at Starfish Point. It is therefore in the best interest of our starfish and the general public who wish to continue to view and interact with these animals sustainably and responsibly, to
ensure that safe and gentle handling is practiced.
Department of Environment Conservation Officers will apply discretion and not consider the “allowed handling” outlined below as ‘take’ under the law ONLY when practiced with the West Indian sea star and only at Starfish Point. This does not apply to any other Echinoderms and does not apply at any other locations.
Guidance Notes have been issued to help clarify safe handling practice of the West Indian sea star at Starfish Point which respects their status as both a protected species and a natural resource of the Cayman Islands.
The Starfish Handling Guidance Notes prepared by the National Conservation Council outline the appropriate – and inappropriate ways – to safely handle our precious starfish and are fully enforceable under the National Conservation Act.
Click below to view or download the complete Starfish Handling Guidance Notes