Maryland: Prevent cruel cownose ray killing contests

Photo by Steve Ryan/Wikimedia Commons

UPDATE: SB 268/HB 211 is now headed to Gov. Larry Hogan. Please urge him to sign this bill into law to protect cownose rays.

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 severe exploitation.

SB 268/HB 211 declares a moratorium on cownose ray killing contests through July 1, 2019 and requires the Department of Natural Resources to prepare a fisheries management plan for the species by December 31, 2018.

Please call Gov. Hogan at 410-974-3901 and urge him to sign SB 268/HB 211. You can simply say, "Please sign SB 268/HB 211 to protect Maryland's cownose rays from contest kills."

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 Governor Hogan,

As a Maryland resident concerned for the future health of our state's waters, I'm writing to urge you to please sign SB 268/HB 211.

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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