Photography: Ben Cammarata
Writing: Yaalni Chandirasekar
In Quintana Roo, Mexico, glides a stingray like no other. The Caribbean Stingray, also referred to as the Chupare Stingray, swims peacefully in the waters…. until the hulking giant made up of scraps of metal appears.
Quickly, it dives near the rocks, settling itself there until the net has passed. Crisis is averted and the elusive stingray escapes the fate it would have faced had it been caught as bycatch.
The Chupare Stingray has been around for centuries, inhabiting the warm coastal waters across the Southwestern Hemisphere. Its continuance predates the modern human; however, the species’ history with mankind is rich.
Found near the Gulf of Mexico, at the same time as the Chupare Stingray, were the Mayans. Their relationship, though it occasionally ended in the hunting of the stingray, was one of respect. The stingray, in Mesoamerican mythology, was seen as a creature that was able to walk both the mortal world and the spirit realm- making it a messenger from the gods.
Sadly, stingrays like these are often caught unintentionally by fisheries, who will use them either to make gelatin and oil, or salt their meat and sell them.
Unfortunately, close to nothing is known about the Chupare Stingray, thus making it so elusive. Overall, the species are considered “data deficient” because there is little information available on population trends, making conservation efforts extremely hard.
For now, all we can do, is work to conserve the delicate ecosystems in the seas. By helping fight climate change, we can help these stingrays and other sea creatures that battle rising sea temperatures, changing water and wind circulation and more.