Stingray Protection: Why Stingrays Also Need Protection From Us
When we talk stingray protection, we usually mean protecting people from stingray stings. After all, it’s people you see lined up by the lifeguard stand in the summer with their feet in buckets of hot water (the standard treatment for stingray stings). To us, our primary focus has been preventing people from this painful injury which is how we ultimately created DragonSkin® stingray-resistant booties.
However, we humans pose just as much of, if not more of a danger to stingrays as they do to us. Let’s take a step back and re-examine the whole human-stingray relationship.
For starters, it is a common misconception that stingrays are aggressive, and attack beachgoers without provocation. The reality is that stingrays are actually very gentle and non-aggressive. When they sting humans, it’s a reflex they have to fend off predators who would want to make a meal of them.
It’s important to remember that we’re sharing their natural habitat, which sometimes leads to reflexive stings. Unfortunately, it is difficult to avoid these chance encounters because of lower water visibility, and stingrays’ tendency to hide under the sand. Us going into stingray habitats and getting stung in the process is impactful, but it certainly isn’t the only intrusion humans make on stingrays.
Kinunot Na Pagi Stingray Dish in the Philippines
In an article on overfishing written by the World Wide Fund for Nature, they highlight that “more than one-third of all sharks, rays, and chimaeras (fish related to sharks and rays) are now at risk of extinction because of overfishing.” They point to a 2021 study that re-assessed an IUCN Red List of Threatened Species extinction risk status. The study found that “the number of threatened species has doubled since the first global study in 2014 and the number of endangered and critically endangered species has more than tripled.”
Stingrays being fished
It’s important to highlight that the study evaluated many types of ray species, but the point still stands that stingrays are facing substantial risks due to overfishing. Separately, it's important to keep in mind that stingrays are also impacted by trawling, a fishing technique where a large net is used to capture fish. In cases like these, stingrays may be captured accidentally yet still get impacted in the process.
When searching for “stingray shoes”, you may notice that the first results aren’t stingray shoes or boots which provide protection like DragonSkin® Booties. Rather, you’ll find shoes made of stingray leather. Additionally, you’ll find RayFish Shoes, a fictional company that purported to make shoes out of custom transgenic Rayfish, grown with the requested pattern. Although the company was fake, it was intended as a deliberate political commentary, and spurred a global conversation about our relationship with animals and how we use them. The reality is that apart from RayFish, stingray leather is actually used to make real stingray shoes and stingray boots.
Stingray leather wallet
Beyond shoes, you'll find stingray leather being used in many applications like making purses, wallets, and other accessories. It's another area stingrays need protection from humans that we don't typically keep in mind.
Stepping on stingrays:
Stingrays underwater where humans may step on them
The final perspective we gained in learning more about stingrays is on the very event that humans fear the most - stepping on a stingray and getting stung.
Of course the human side of it is all too familiar. Stepping on a stingray followed by a pointed pain as the stingray barb and its venom enters the skin.
However, the other side of the sting also hurts - it has consequential effects on the stingray! Professor Lowe studies stingrays in the the CSULB Shark Lab. He shared that unfortunately, stingrays usually die if you step on them. This is because when we step on them, we crush their internal organs since humans are many orders of magnitude heavier than typical stingrays.
Although we started DragonSkin primarily to protect humans, our research has illuminated the other side of the equation for us as well. We feel we have a responsibility to highlight how stingrays are awesome but vulnerable creatures in blogs like these.
Next time you think of stingray protection - know that it goes both ways.