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 While You Are at the Beach


​It is easy to forget that when it comes to the Gulf of Mexico, we are simply visitors to this natural environment.

Our coastline is home to many different species of marine life. Though most are harmless, many have the ability to sting and bite. These include Portuguese man-of-war, jellyfish, fire corals, catfish and sea urchins. It is important to avoid contact with these animals.

Stingrays and sharks are especially dangerous, and necessary precautions must be taken to prevent serious injury.

  • Perform the “stingray shuffle” when first getting into the water.


    • Shuffle your feet forward, one at a time. This creates vibrations which alert nearby stingrays that you are there.
    • Do not stomp down into the sand, as you can accidentally step on one, prompting a sting as the animal tries to defend itself.
  • Poke the area around you gently with a stick to scare off surrounding stingrays.
  • Be aware that stingrays tend to travel together. If you see one, there may be several in the area.        

Like most marine life, stingrays only sting if they feel threatened. While injuries can be very painful, they are rarely fatal. Sharks are also a natural part of Florida’s aquatic ecosystem.

  • Shark bites are extremely rare and avoidable.
  • Do not enter the water if you know sharks are present.
  • If one is seen, leave the water immediately and alert a local lifeguard.
  • If one is in close proximity, DO NOT swim off frantically.
  • Stay completely still and move away slowly after the shark has realized you are not prey.

 Health and Safety Tips for Beach Goers

  • Do not go in the water if you have an open cut or sore.
  • Children in diapers or people of all ages who are experiencing diarrhea should not go into the water.
    • This includes public swimming pools.
  • Avoid swallowing the water.
  • Never swim alone; always use the buddy system.
  • Swim only in areas designated for swimming, and preferably those that have lifeguards present.
  • Don't dive in areas not marked for such activity. 
    • The water and waves can hide underwater rocks and other hazards
  • If the area is unfamiliar, be sure to read any posted information or warnings, especially about hazards such as rip currents or about health warnings and closure
Sarasota Office:
Office of Environmental Health Services
1001 Sarasota Center Blvd.
Sarasota, FL 34240
Venice Office:
Office of Environmental Health Services
4000 S. Tamiami Trail S., Room 121
Venice, FL 34293
Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is intended to provide general public health guidance and is not a substitute for seeking medical advice from a health care provider. Water quality reports on this site are based on weekly water samples and represent the most up-to-date information available to local public health officials.