In recent times, an alarming issue has sparked controversy on the beaches of Huatabampo, Sonora – the stinging mutilation of stingrays. This practice, though claimed to be a strategy to control the impact on tourists, is incorrect, harmful to wildlife, illegal under Mexican regulations, and ultimately ineffective.
The handling of these magnificent marine organisms, like mantas and stingrays, causes them considerable stress. It's crucial to understand that only those with proper permits should handle wildlife to ensure their well-being and safety. Releasing organisms onto the surface leaves them vulnerable to predation when they return to their natural habitat. Additionally, the act of stinger mutilation is not only inhumane but also counterproductive since the stinger can grow back within one to three years, rendering the exercise futile.
Despite these practices being witnessed on the beaches of Huatabampo, there is no scientific evidence supporting their use as control measures. On the contrary, handling these creatures can lead them to retreat from the area, making space available for non-mutilated rays to arrive. This further disrupts the natural balance of marine life.
It is essential to recognize the importance of mantas and stingrays as part of the accompanying fauna of the fishery on these coasts. To protect their populations, fishermen must have the appropriate permits for harvesting. Unfortunately, over the years, stingray populations have faced a decline, and various sustainable seafood guides have listed fishing for all shark and ray species as unsustainable.
So, how can we ensure our safety while preserving the well-being of these magnificent marine creatures? First, wearing special shoes when entering the sea or shuffling across the sand can help avoid stingray bites. Shuffling sends vibrations that warn stingrays of human presence, prompting them to swim away. Authorities must also play their part by posting warning signs on beaches about potential dangers and ensuring support from emergency services.
It is crucial to understand that manta rays, in particular, are not aggressive and usually only attack humans when provoked, such as accidental stepping. A sting from these creatures causes pain, swelling, muscle cramps (from the venom), and could potentially lead to bacterial or fungal infections. While the injury is incredibly painful, it is rarely life-threatening unless the sting pierces a vital area.
Manta rays store venom inside tissue cells, which includes toxins such as cystatins, peroxiredoxin, and galectin. Galectin induces cell death in victims, while cystatins inhibit defense enzymes. These toxins cause increased blood flow and cell death in humans. Surprisingly, little energy is required to produce and store this venom, despite the complexity of its composition.
In the case of a stingray sting, it is essential to administer prompt and appropriate treatment. Warm water application has been shown to relieve pain, although the exact mechanism of pain relief is still not entirely understood. Some theories propose that hot water may denature the venom, while others suggest modulation of pain receptors in the nervous system through mechanisms like gate control theory and diffuse noxious inhibitory control theory.
To prevent infection, antibiotics may be given in cases of delayed treatment, deep wounds, or large amounts of foreign material in the wound. Pain relief can be achieved through local anesthesia, regional nerve blocks, or intramuscular opioids like pethidine. Contrary to popular belief, vinegar and papain are not effective remedies for stingray stings.
In conclusion, let us collectively take care of the mantas and other marine creatures by respecting their natural habitat and avoiding harmful practices. With a conscious effort from both tourists and authorities, we can create a safer and more sustainable environment for all living beings on our beaches. By protecting these majestic creatures, we not only ensure the balance of marine ecosystems but also provide future generations with the opportunity to appreciate the beauty and diversity of marine life. Let's make a positive impact together and preserve the wonders of our oceans for generations to come.
Full Citation: Prensa y Colaboradores, Oficina de. “¡Cuidemos a Las Mantas! - Centro De Investigación En Alimentación Y Desarrollo (CIAD).”, 14 Apr. 2023, www.ciad.mx/cuidemos-a-las-mantas.