The Stingray Shuffle

Stingray, Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, ocean

Human beings, stingrays and sea jellies share something: We all love to swim in warm water. But that poses some problems.

As more human swimmers enter the surf during the summer, it’s more likely that we will encounter a stingray or a sea jelly. Santa Monica Fire Department Mark Bridge told the Santa Monica Daily Press that since April 1, 18 people have been stung by a sea jelly or stingray in local waters. 

But just because you encounter a stingray or a sea jelly, that doesn’t mean you’ll get stung. 

It’s important to remember that these marine species call the ocean their home and it’s as if we are barging into their living room, advises Vicki Wawerchak, director of Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. “When we walk into the ocean, we are unexpected visitors,” she explains. “They’re not looking for our feet or ankles and we can accidentally step on them.”

The top precaution you can take, she continues, is to “educate yourself on how to coexist in their environment, especially during the summer months when so many of us are in the water. Learn what these animals look like in the sand and sea so you can avoid them.” 

For instance, it’s good to know that sea jellies can’t swim on their own; they’re pushed by the current, so it’s up to you to avoid them. And to escape being stung by the usually docile and curious stingray, shuffle your feet side-to-side and avoid normal forward stepping though the surf. 

But perhaps the best prevention is to learn more about these marine species by visiting them in a safe environment, such as the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, which features Round Stingrays and Moon Jellies, among the more than 100 local sea animals on display.