A Monstrous 400-Lb. Stingray Was Trawled Up in the Long Island Sound — What Does it Mean?

Bianca Piazza - Author

Sep. 29 2023, Published 4:56 p.m. ET

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection official and 400-pound roughtail stingray on boat
Source: Connecticut Fish and Wildlife/Facebook

Though narrow eyes and pointy, venomous tails make stingrays undeniably intimidating (and the shocking 2006 death of beloved Australian conservationist Steve Irwin surely heightened the fear of these cartilaginous fish), they're actually fairly gentle sea pancakes. According to marine biologist Richard Wylie, stingrays are "inquisitive, playful creatures." In a 2012 story for Australian Geographic, he compared their curious behavior to that of a puppy, clarifying that "any animal that is cornered or scared can be dangerous," including adorable canines.

Still, we assume Wylie has never encountered a monstrous roughtail stingray during his 4,000-plus dives. We've never seen a 6-feet long, 5-feet wide puppy, that's for sure.

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In September 2023, Connecticut Fish and Wildlife officials trawled up a "relatively rare" creature in the Long Island Sound: a 400-pound adult roughtail stingray.

If you never knew stingrays could grow to be that big, join the club. Per National Geographic, stingrays can weight up to 790 pounds! Us humans really have no business exploring the ocean.

Read on to learn more about the bizarre Atlantic catch.

Photos of stingrays and fish swimming in the Caribbean
Source: Getty Images
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A 400-pound roughtail stingray was found in the Long Island Sound. Is this normal?

According to the official Connecticut Fish and Wildlife Facebook page, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is made up of three divisions: the Fisheries Division (Inland and Marine), Wildlife Division, and the Division of Forestry.

Fisheries Division officials were shocked when they caught the massive ray in the Long Island Sound — an estuary covering approximately 1,320 square miles, per the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation — on Sept. 27, 2023.

"The crew trawled up a HUGE roughtail stingray (Bathytosia centroura): Over 6 feet long, 5 feet wide, and an estimated 400 pounds! These gentle giants are found along the Atlantic coast from New England to Florida but are relatively rare in Long Island Sound," Connecticut Fish and Wildlife wrote in a Facebook post.

"Like all stingrays, roughtails have a venomous spine in their tail — but not to worry — they are not aggressive, and don’t frequent shallow nearshore waters where people wade and swim."

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stated that roughtail stingrays live in "muddy and sandy substrates," "inhabit coastal waters," and "can be found at depths over 600 feet." They're considered benthic feeders, as they eat "bottom-living invertebrates and fish."

Additionally, the roughtail stingray is the "largest whiptail stingray species in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico." Its wingspan can grow up to 7.25 feet and can weigh up to 660 pounds.

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The viral post also includes a photo of the creature lying on its back on a boat. Its pale pink “ventral side” is visible in the snapshot.

"Rather than attempt to roll the animal over, our crew quickly took some measurements and immediately returned the ray to the water to watch it swim away alive and well," the post continued.

Though Fisheries Division officials acknowledged that climate change is warming the New England waters — making their cobia (a predatory fish) catch exciting yet troublesome — local news outlet WFSB reported that the massive roughtail stingray sighting is actually a good thing.

Climate change is partially responsible for the Long Island Sound stingray sighting.

Reporter Eliza Kruczynski relayed that marine biologists claimed "it's a sign that the marine ecosystem is healthy and thriving" to WFSB.

However, as mentioned in the Connecticut Fish and Wildlife Facebook post, climate change has something to do with it. Longer periods of warm water allow species like the roughtail stingray more time to migrate.

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Source: WFSB 3/YouTube

"Temperatures are a lot warmer. And, for whatever reason, every time we have hurricanes or nor'easters, these species tend to migrate up the coast and end up in the Sound," DEEP marine fisheries biologist David Molnar told WFSB.

The climate crisis is certainly bleak, but Molnar added that "it's really, really important for us to see animals like that."

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