Stingrays in Los Angeles

stingraytrans.jpgWhen I die, I hope its at a ripe old age. But short of that, I hope its as quick and gloriously as that of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. Its saddening that a TV personality so loved has been lost, let alone one who’s done so much for the animal community, but being killed by a stingray spearing your heart is certainly a more glorious and righteous way to go than, say, being killed in a car crash.

The ironic part is the awareness that stingrays have received as a result, and the rush by those close to Steve Irwin to insist that the animals are typically calm, peaceful critters, and that deaths from stingrays are so rare to almost be unheard of.

Here in Southern California, what we have to worry about are the “round stingrays”. I stumbled across this report from Seagrant at USC:

The round stingray, Urobatis halleri, is the most common stingray found in Southern California waters. It typically inhabits sand or mud substratum off coastal beaches, bays and sloughs. The stingray gains its name from the poisonous serrated spine located towards the end of its tail, which it uses to defend itself, such as when it is stepped on by an unsuspecting human…

…In 2001 alone approximately 399 stingray-related injuries were treated by City lifeguards from the Seal Beach area.


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A similar (possibly part of the same endeavor) study at UCSB was researching the practicality of clipping stingrays tails and then releasing back into the waters instead of relocating them entirely, in an effort to stymie the risk they pose to increasing numbers of beachgoers.

Large-scale removal of rays along these beaches has been suggested as a means of reducing stingray injuries. However, because the round stingray is an important benthic predator, depletion of the population could cause adverse ecological effects to coastal benthic communities. In addition, large-scale removal may be ineffective due to seasonal coastal movements…

…We are presently conducting a spine regeneration study in both the laboratory and field to determine whether spine clipping will reduce the chances of stingray-related injuries to beach goers.

Socal beachgoers worried about the risk stingrays may pose to you and yours in these final days of summer should take this advice about the “stingray shuffle” from Beach California’s safety tips:

Stingrays are found in the shallow water seasonally. They are not aggressive animals but are equipped with a bard and venom gland on their tail that they use as a defense mechanism. To avoid stingrays, shuffle your fee along the sandy bottom while exiting and entering the water. If stung, report to the nearest staffed lifeguard station for first aid. If allergic reaction occurs, call 911 immediately.

And if you feel the need “get your revenge” on the little buggers, Adam Unlimited in Marina del Rey has a large number of stingray skin items available for sale, from stingray skin boots to jackets and handbags.

(photo from CSULB Sharklab)

2 Replies to “Stingrays in Los Angeles”

  1. KCET’s Life & Times did a piece about the stingrays in Seal Beach earlier this summer. See the transcript here:

    http://www.kcet.org/lifeandtimes/archives/200607/20060726.php

    Here are some of my favorite blurbs:

    Seal Beach has the highest concentration of stingrays than any other beach on the United States coast and that means hundreds of beachgoers will get to know stingrays in a very personal way.

    The spine itself is actually a modified scale, but it’s shaped like a serrated steak knife. So when it cuts into your skin, it’s designed to get the toxin into the wound and then that toxin causes the wound to swell and be extremely painful.

    And it happens here a lot, so much that surfers nicknamed the place “Ray Bay”. The rays at Seal Beach may be the most stepped-on stingray population anywhere. Lifeguards say that, during a busy summer, anywhere from two hundred to five hundred people come hobbling out of the surf with a painful injury usually somewhere on their foot or ankle.

    That means that somewhere between a quarter and a third of all ray-related injuries in the coastal United States happen right here along this stretch of beach. A team of scientists has spent seven years examining the ray problem, making these perhaps the most studied stingrays in the world.

    AND MORE IMPORTANTLY:

    They say the rays may be lounging off Seal Beach because manmade features here made the area a lot like the warm estuaries where round rays gather to mate.

    Most notable, power plants up the San Gabriel River discharge heated water through this channel and right to the beach.

    One of the things that makes Seal Beach unique is the fact that the water temperatures tend to be warmer here than they are at any of the neighboring beaches.

    The round rays seem to like other manmade features as well. Rock jetties and nearby breakwaters keep the surf and currents on the calm side and they help keep the bottom here sandy with a gentle slope.

    If you like warm water, you’re going to go where the warm water is. It’s the same with the stingrays. And stingrays obviously like a smooth, sandy bottom with very little turbulence.

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