Huge stingray glides past Sunshine Coast swimmers
MARINE experts have called for calm after a massive stingray was spotted close to swimmers on the Sunshine Coast.
Stingrays have acquired a bad reputation since the death of wildlife warrior Steve Irwin 13 years ago.
But the bizarre-looking marine creature, with its outlandishly wide, pancake-flat body and whip-like tail has a gentle nature unless provoked, according to Sea World director of marine sciences Trevor Long.
Rothwell mother-of-three Lisa Kissick photographed the stingray on Sunday at noon.
"The photo doesn't do it justice," Mrs Kissick said.
"I've never seen one that big."
Mrs Kissick said three teenage girls were unknowingly swimming near the stingray when onlookers spotted it from a bridge on Noosa Pde behind the Noosa Sofitel.
"There was massive shadow and then a guy called out 'get out of the water'.
"It was probably two metres wide.
"It flapped around near the shore, then disappeared into the deeper water.
"It was just doing its own thing."
Mr Long said stingrays were incredible creatures that didn't deserve their bad reputation.
"Stingrays will avoid any sort of danger," he said.
"As a last resort will they use the barb.
"They are not aggressive in any way at all.
"They will flee before they would ever try to attack anything."
Mr Long said because stingrays were bottom dwellers, everything attacked a stingray from above.
"Don't swim close to them," Mr Long encouraged.
"They are misunderstood.
"As long as you don't go over the top of it, you're safe."
Mr Long said stingrays could grow very large, even growing up to three metres across.
"They are common (in certain areas) but we are losing them," he said.
"We are seeing less of them, that's why we have to be very protective and careful of them."
Griffith University marine biologist Tim Stevens has swum with stingrays countless times and he said they should not be feared.
Dr Stevens believes the stingray pictured is a cowtail stingray.
"They are not dangerous unless you are monumentally unlucky," Dr Stevens said.
"(Cowtail stingrays) grow to at least two metres across, and can be very curious, sometimes approaching divers or snorkellers," he said.
"They're not aggressive, and while they do have a poisonous spine, this is only for defence.
"The best thing to do is to watch, appreciate, and keep a respectful distance."