Assessing the Risks: The Reality of Stingray Stings, Shark Attacks, and Jellyfish Encounters

Let’s face it - the ocean has its dangers. We see shark attacks on the news, jellyfish blooms on instagram, and lines of folks by the lifeguard stand with their feet in buckets of hot water, being treated for stingray stings. But how common are each of these, actually? Which do we really need to worry about? In this article, we present the prevalence of different aquatic threats.

Jellyfish Stings:

 

Chrysaora colorata jellyfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chrysaora colorata jellyfish off the coast of California from Bodega Bay to San Diego

 

Jellyfish are found in every ocean around the world. According to World Atlas, there are over 2,000 known species of jellyfish in the world although scientists estimate that there could be as many as 300,000 undiscovered species. Although many can be found in deep oceans, injuries from jellyfish primarily occur close to shore. Jellyfish stings typically cause immediate pain and burning, and leave red/brown/purplish track-like marks on the skin. They can also cause itching/swelling around the sting area, may result in tingling/numbness, and in more severe cases, can cause throbbing pain that radiates up a leg or an arm. In extreme cases, stings from species such as the Box Jellyfish and Irukandji Jellyfish can be life-threatening.

 

According to a paper on a field trial to prevent jellyfish stings, there are an estimated 150 million jellyfish envenomations annually. The odds of getting stung by a jellyfish depend on the region and season but, because of their sheer scale, jellyfish stings are some of the most prevalent aquatic threats.

 

Stingray Stings:

 

Unlike jellyfish, stingrays are primarily found in temperate and tropical waters. They predominantly live in saltwater, but some species of stingrays can also be found in freshwater as well, such as the Giant Freshwater Stingray, which can grow up to 16 ft long if you include the tail! There are currently more than 240 known species of stingrays, and they vary quite a bit. Saltwater stingrays are usually found closer to shore since they prefer warmer, calmer waters. Unfortunately this is right where most human activity is, and often results in accidental stingray stings.

 

 

Map of where stingrays can be found globally

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Map of where stingrays can be found globally

 

Stingrays are not aggressive, and generally only sting if stepped on or otherwise physically disturbed. They sting by reflexively swinging their tail, driving their venomous barb into whatever is nearby. You can read more on what a stingray sting is like and their barb on our blog.

 

Round stingray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round Stingray

 

Similar to Jellyfish stings, the prevalence  of stingray stings depends on the region and season. Dr. Chris Lowe with the CSU Long Beach, Shark Lab shared with ABC7 and NBC7 news that they estimate that there are 10,000 stingray stings every summer at Southern California beaches alone, most of these from Round Stingrays. Of course, your chances of being stung will vary a lot depending on how much time you spend in the water, especially in contact with the ground. Stingrays frequently bury themselves in the sand, and almost all stings occur when people step on them by accident. Moreover, certain beaches’ geographies may be more prone to stingray stings. You can learn more about safe habits around stingrays in our article on How to Avoid Getting Stung by Stingrays.

 

Shark Attacks

 

 

Great white shark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great White Shark

 

Interestingly, sharks are cousins of stingrays! According to AZ Animals, there are 512 known species of sharks as of 2021, with that number expected to grow. Sharks are found in all five oceans in the world. Although shark attacks are often sensationalized by the media, in reality they are extremely rare (although the exact prevalence depends heavily on the region and season, of course).

 

According to CBSNews, only 52 unprovoked shark attacks occurred worldwide in 2022. If you’re curious to explore known shark attacks across the world, you can check them out in this interactive map published by floridapanhandle.com

 

Between sharks, stingrays, and jellyfish, it seems sharks should statistically be the least of our worries! Although they are often the most popularized in the media.

 

In Summary:

 

Although ocean dangers are ever present, the media doesn’t always accurately represent the true likelihoods. Being proactive and practicing safe beach habits is always a must.

 

We created DragonSkin® stingray-resistant booties to help protect against stingray stings and lower the odds even more. You can check them out in our stingray-resistant bootie collection.