Maryland: Prevent cruel cownose ray killing contests

Photo by Steve Ryan/Wikimedia Commons

Each summer, cownose rays (named for their uniquely-shaped heads) are targets of unethical sport hunts in Maryland waters.

Participants in contests compete to shoot the heaviest rays, making pregnant females prime targets, then haul them onto boats and often bludgeon them with a metal bat or hammer. Some rays are still alive when thrown into piles and slowly suffocate to death.

After tournament winners are chosen, the dead rays are dumped back into the water or left to rot along the shore. With no commercial fishery for rays, there is no government regulation of these events and participants often kill as many rays as possible. Cownose rays are important to the Bay’s ecosystem and their slow reproductive rate makes the species vulnerable to overexploitation.

Two bills in the Maryland legislature now need your support in order to prevent these ecologically destructive killing contests. SB268 and HB211 will prohibit sponsoring, conducting or participating in cownose ray killing events for prizes, entertainment or other incentives.

Please make a brief, polite phone call to your delegate who serves on House Environment and Transportation Committee. You can simply say, "Please support SB268 and HB211 to prevent cownose ray killing contests in order to protect the Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem.”

After your call, use the form below to send a follow-up message. Editing your message will help it stand out.

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Your Message

Dear Delegate,

As a Maryland resident concerned for the future health of our state's waters, I'm writing to ask that you please voice your support for SB268 and HB211.

Cownose rays, native to the Chesapeake Bay where they gather each summer to breed, are integral to the ecosystem. Their presence is a good sign for the Bay's overall health. However, these gentle, intelligent creatures are also targets for cruel and unnecessary killing contests each year.

These contests violate the principles of ethical hunting as well as respect for wildlife and their habitats. Research indicates that oyster populations have declined in the Bay as a result of overfishing, not from cownose ray predation. There is no evidence that killing rays will do anything to restore oyster populations, nor is there evidence that they are causing other problems in the Bay. In fact, oyster hauls have increased in recent years.

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