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MD General Assembly Halts Cownose Ray Killing Contests

cownose-ray

By © Citron / , CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

ANNAPOLIS, MD (April 5, 2017) - The Maryland legislature has taken a major step to protect Chesapeake Bay wildlife today by voting to stop contests during which cownose rays, including pregnant rays and their pups, are shot with arrows, bludgeoned and suffocated. The rays are killed solely for entertainment and prize money, not for food or to prevent harm.
"The Maryland legislature has seen the gruesome evidence and has taken emergency action to stop these vicious killing contests," said Mary Finelli, chair of the Save the Rays Coalition. "In addition to protecting cownose rays, this strongly supported bipartisan legislation also protects the Bay's ecosystem and stops wanton waste and senseless cruelty."

The Maryland Senate passed a final version of the 2017 Cownose Ray Fishery Management Plan and Moratorium on Contests ( HB 211 ) today, by a vote of 44-2. Sponsored by Del. Shane Robinson (D-39), the bill passed the House with a 119-21 vote on March 15. The legislation now goes to Gov. Larry Hogan for his signature.

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

During the contests, which have been held every summer in Maryland for several years, participants slaughter rays en masse to see who can kill the heaviest rays. Cownose rays are a native species to the Bay, and are extremely vulnerable to overfishing. Pregnant female rays are often the prime target of the contests because of their heavier weight. Participants have been caught on film dumping rays' bodies back into the Bay or tossing them into dumpsters.

"The Humane Society of the United States and our Maryland supporters are elated that the General Assembly placed a moratorium on cruel and wasteful cownose ray killing contests," said Emily Hovermale, Maryland state director for The HSUS. "Killing animals for 'fun' and prizes is antithetical to how Marylanders believe our wildlife should be treated. We do not want our state to reward shameful cruelty or waste natural resources."

Scientists have shown that cownose rays are not responsible for oyster population collapses, but instead consume oyster predators and may help disperse large, reproductively mature oysters throughout the Bay and be beneficial to blue crabs.

Advocates credit this year's bill passage to strong support from legislative leaders, particularly Del. Kumar Barve (D-17), Chair of the Environment and Transportation Committee, and Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-43), Chair of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, along with bill sponsors Del. Shane Robinson and Sen. Ron Young (D-3). Advocates also thank the more than 223,000 supporters who signed a petition to end the contests, and the thousands of concerned citizens who contacted their legislators to ask them to support the bill.

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