The Department of Environment (DOE) has had an influx of complaints about cruelty and mistreatment of the species.
Deputy DOE Director, Tim Austin, said taking starfish out of the water is illegal.
“The current policy is it’s okay to handle them in the water, but not to lift them out of the water,” he said.
Mr. Austin said the department has received a number of complaints of people taking them out of the water for a long period of time and putting them in danger.
“We’ve had a lot of complaints that people are abusing that situation, putting them on boats, carrying them to their dock and throwing them off, which isn’t acceptable,” he added.
Starfish can survive for a long time out of the water but the DOE advises against it because it can be stressful for them, “whether they move out of that area because of the abuse is a very distinct possibility,” Mr. Austin said.
“Our major concern is that they are respected and the laws are held in place. The definition of ‘take’ is probably not broad enough to capture all scenarios. The National Conservation law does have a much broader definition. Technically it’s ‘disturbing or molesting’ the animal but those words aren’t in the law at the moment,” Mr. Austin added.
If you are caught mishandling a starfish you could face up to a year in jail or a half a million dollar fine. The DOE said officers have been shown some photographic evidence and given warnings but haven’t prosecuted anyone for starfish abuse.
Did you know?
- If a starfish loses an arm, each piece can grow a whole new starfish
- They can have four or more arms, some have up to 40
- The species is brainless and has no blood in its body
- A starfish can change its gender whenever it feels like it
- It has two stomachs
Cayman 27′s Monica Walton filed this report.