The Truth about Stingrays

Finding a stingray when snorkeling or scuba diving is arguably one of the most thrilling sensations! Both seasoned pros and novice scuba divers might be in awe of the majesty and grace of these amazing creatures. While scuba diving, you can actually hear the pectoral fins of the fish propelling them forward by pushing the water behind them for a brief period of time. Many people choose to scuba dive for this exact reason—to merely take in nature's beauty in its natural setting.

So why do we usually get asked before a dive, "Are stingrays dangerous?" The fundamental question is: Are stingrays actually so deadly, or are people just misinformed about them, and why do so many people dread them? Let's distinguish truth from fiction and find out!

Why are stingrays regarded as hazardous by some people?

The death of internationally renowned TV personality Steve Irwin is the primary cause of the impression that stingrays are harmful. This well-known environmentalist and media personality purportedly died in 2006 after being "attacked" by a stingray.

When word got out that Steve had allegedly been "stabbed hundreds of times," dozens of stingrays were dismembered in retaliation. Many Australians even threatened to punch stingrays kept in captivity. Stingrays were labeled as being something to be afraid of from this point forward in 2006, and fear was spread all across the world.

Many people think the attack was unprovoked, however according to one explanation, the Stingray thought Irwin's shadow was actually a predator since it looked like a tiger shark.

Accident or coincidence?

Was this event simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or is there additional proof that stingrays are harmful by nature and that we should exercise caution while around them?

There are ten families and roughly 220 recognized stingray species, according to Wikipedia. They don't even actively defend themselves or launch aggressive attacks. According to experts, stingrays are calm animals that often swim away when threatened. Since 1945, just two fatalities have been officially reported in Australia, one of which was Steve Irwin. Having said that, nonfatal accidents do happen more frequently globally.

What causes these accidents without fatalities?

Stingrays live in shallow beach waters that are tucked away beneath the sand, where they typically eat clams, oysters, mussels, and small fish. Due to this, the majority of injuries involve the lower legs and ankles as unaware tourists step on them while they are buried in the sand. When you stomp on the stingray, it will immediately whip its tail forward and downward out of instinct and lash out with its barb. These mishaps reportedly occur 1,500 times annually in the waters of the USA alone, and despite not being lethal, it is reportedly incredibly painful.

Why do these occurrences take place?

Who is then at fault? Only 17 stingray deaths have been documented globally, according to statistics. The term "docile creatures" refers to stingrays, who only only attack when necessary for self-defense. It can be argued that stingrays are not inherently harmful given the incredibly low number of deadly accidents and the non-fatal incidents caused by human action. We must, however, be aware of the proper way to deal with these species. How should you approach them, though?

How to dive with Stingrays

We divers ought to have the utmost regard for all living things. Since scuba divers are taught to leave "only bubbles" after their dives, they are expected to never touch anything while underwater. To ensure a positive relationship with stingrays, there are a few guidelines for how to engage with them correctly.

● Shuffle or slide your feet along the sandy, shallow bottom as you enter the water. Any stingrays will swim away as a result of this alerting them to your existence. You won't walk on them once you're in the water if you do this.

● Don't swarm the stingray if you are fortunate enough to see one while scuba diving. According to experts, the stingray would have felt trapped and launched a defensive attack because of Steve Irwin's position above it and the cameraman in front of it. Keep your distance and avoid forming a circle around the ray because we are invading its home.

● Rinse the wound with extremely hot water if you have been stung by a stingray. It aids in easing the venom's agony while urging rapid medical intervention.

Since the death of the Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin more than ten years ago, it is time to stop being afraid of stingrays and start appreciating their natural beauty and understanding that they are not domesticated animals. Everyone may securely and fearlessly take in the graceful beauty of stingrays up close with the right safety measures and information.


Author: James Bamsey is a PADI scuba diving instructor in Gran Canaria with Leagues Ahead Diving. He works hard to promote ocean conservation through his dive center and share his passion for scuba diving with his students. He owns and operates Leagues Ahead Diving with his partner Sophie and the center has been open since 2017. Leagues Ahead Diving dive all sites on Gran Canaria including the famous marine reserve, El Cabron.

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