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Swimmers warned to not upset stingrays

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SWIMMERS are being warned not to antagonise stingrays which have been spotted in shallow water close to a number of Jersey’s beaches.

Common stingrays have been spotted off the south and east coast of the Island Picture: Société Jersiaise Marine Biology Section

One Island marine biologist, who has been observing the fish locally for many years, said that he had in the past witnessed bathers run out of the sea ‘like a scene from Jaws’ after seeing a stingray.

However, experts say that stingrays will not attack if they do not feel threatened and are not ‘surprised’ by an approaching human.

The prolonged spell of warm and settled weather is thought to have led to stingrays, which can grow up to a metre and a half long, moving out of the deep water, where they would usually be at this time of the year, in greater numbers. They have been seen off the south and east of the Island.

Swimmers are being advised not to touch or ‘box in’ the fish, which have a venomous barb at the end of their tail which they use to fend off predators and creatures they perceive as a threat.

Gareth Jeffreys, chairman of the Société Jersiaise’s Marine Biology Section, said that the common stingray – the type found in Jersey waters – could inflect a painful sting.

He also said people might require a trip to the GP to remove any fragments of barb if they were attacked.

One member of Mr Jeffrey’s section reported seeing eight stingrays off Grouville Bay during a single snorkelling session.

‘In the summer months and late spring you usually do see stingrays moving into more shallow waters,’ he said.

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‘Anecdotally, we are now seeing a higher number of them, particularly on the east coast.

‘It may have something to do with the calmer weather and how there has been a lot less swell which is bringing them into areas where people can see them.’

Mr Jeffreys added that the common stingray could grow up to 1.5 metres long but that most tended to be under a metre long with a 12 cm barb.

He also said that the fish normally arched their backs and raised their tails as a warning before launching an attack.

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‘The barbs are venomous but they only use them defensively to guard against their prey,’ he said.

‘If you do see a stingray, they do not like interaction with humans and they will try to move away from you, but if you box them in and they have nowhere to escape they will lash out with the barb on their tail.

‘If you shuffle your feet along the sand as you are moving into the water you will not surprise them and you should not end up accidentally stepping on them.’

In a post on the Société Jersiaise Marine Biology Section’s Facebook page, one member said that one of the creatures had caused panic among swimmers at an east coast bay.

The post read: ‘The stingrays have been out in force this weekend – I managed to see eight, all off the east coast.

‘Unusually, two of the rays swam towards me, including one without a tail. I have heard stories of fishermen cutting the tails off stingrays before returning them to the sea. Perhaps this is true.

‘I saw my final stingray of the day as I was wading out of the sea. It was swimming in about half a metre of water and caused nearby bathers to run for dry land. A bit like that scene in Jaws.’

The news follows a warning issued by Environmental Health last week to be aware that jellyfish were beginning to appear in the Island’s beaches.

In the same notice, Islanders were also told not to use urine or vinegar to neutralise the stings and instead pour seawater over the affected area, along with using an ice pack or pain-relief gels.

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