I’m sure everyone in Los Angeles has seen the stingray photo in the LA Times. I was alarmed when I read that they were de-barbing the stingrays. I decided to investigate to see what was really going on.
I called up the guy from the surf academy. He told me that there are a lot of stingrays there where the river dumps into the ocean. He was cleaning up trash from that area years ago when a researcher asked to collect the stingrays. They would put the stingrays in a holding tank, measure them, clip off the barb then release them back into the ocean. They clipped off the barbs to protect humans who are stung when they accidentally step on the rays.
He told me their barbs grow back. He said they don’t need their barbs because they live in that area year round and there are no predators. He said the stingrays were not native to this area and there are 40,000 of them there.
I then spoke with the scientist and got a different story. He said they did a population count and counted 16,000 rays in the area. They are native. The rays are only there for a few days along the shore in July/August then they move to Newport Beach then come back. There are few natural predators in the area. They cut off the barbs of about 200 rays a year.
I also spoke with Fish & Game. The researcher has a scientific collecting permit but they did not see a justification for stingrays. I called up DFG marine but she has not yet confirmed if he has the proper permits or not.
In the meantime I did my own research. Stingrays do grow the barb back. It takes a few months to six months. They need their barb to protect them from predators and it’s the tip of their tails. The barb is made up of tissue similar to teeth. I’m not sure if they feel pain when you cut it off.
Cutting 200 barbs off 16,000 stingrays seems to be pointless to me. I would think educating the public about the existence of stingrays would make more sense. You should shuffle your feet to scare away stingrays so you don’t accidentally step on them and get stung. Then I found this article where Dr. Lowe makes the following comment,
“Lowe has concluded that the barb-clipping will not work at the scale they were doing it. He now believes that ‘the answer is better education.’ “
Then why clip the barbs off? I personally think they may feel some pain but I’m not positive. Plus, they need it to protect themselves from predators. They have to go into the deeper ocean to eat clams, mollusks, crabs and small fish. Stingray predators are eels, sharks and large fish. We have eel, sharks and large fish in the area.
I’ll update this note when I get more information.
UPDATE: Fish & Game just got back to me. This makes more sense. They de-barb the stingrays so they can safely handle them and mark them. The barb grows back before they migrate out of the area.
“Your email was forwarded to me by Ms. Louie. Dr. Lowe himself was not involved in the operation that was photographed by the L.A. Times photographer. Lowe’s student, who has a valid Scientific Collecting Permit (SCP), was in charge of the operation. Student SCPs are valid for one year from the date of issuance.
Dr. Lowe’s students have been involved with studies of the stingray in this bay for over a decade. This particular grad student is looking at contaminants and fecundity in the stingray. The natural predators in this bay have disappeared, and the stingray’s barb grows back quickly, usually in several months (before the animals migrate out of the area). The researchers mark the animals by de-barbing them so they don’t gather data from them more than once in the summer. Since the barb of a stingray can cause a serious puncture wound that is easily infected, by de-barbing the animals the students can safely handle them. This work is done following the standards in Cal State University Long Beach’s Animal Care & Welfare Policy.
The Department carefully evaluates each application for a SCP before it is issued. If you were to apply for a permit to capture stingrays and part of your protocol was to de-barb them we would look at the purpose of you research, the geographical location where you wanted to collect the animals, the number of animals you wanted to collect, what gear you would like to use, how and why you were de-barbing them, the disposition of the animals, and so on.
I’ve contacted Dr. Lowe, and he is anxious to respond to your concerns. He and his students have a number of publications on the results of their work, and he can provide you with specific references to those studies. He also has more extensive knowledge on stingrays. If you have additional questions please contact me directly. Regards,
Kristine Kristine Barsky Senior Invertebrate Specialist CA Dept. of Fish and Game 2419 E. Harbor Blvd. #149 Ventura, CA 93001 Tel: (805) 985-3114 Fax: (805) 568-1235 Email: Kbarsky@dfg.ca.gov http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine
If you’d like to contact the researcher, here is his public contact information:
The surf instructor is Cary Ortiz
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