Cownoses, Monkeys and Slingshots, Oh My!

Huntersville, MD - I have lived near the Chesapeake Bay for my entire life. I understand that people fish the waters for food and for their livelihoods. However, the pointless killing of hundreds of cownose rays for no other reason than for the fun of it is abhorrent.

Now, let’s get a few things straight. I have no problems with responsible hunters. My neighbors are deer hunters. My father is an avid fisherman. Our street has an annual cookout that features fresh killed smoked boar. But there are hunting seasons, and strict limits on the number and size of animals that can be killed.

The problems with tournaments organized around the cownose ray are mainly twofold. One: there is no regulation. Basically, the winner of the tournament is the person who catches the most poundage of meat.  Two: there is absolutely no skill required to catch these animals whatsoever. These rays swim just under the surface of the water. A participant in this tournament said that the best way to get as many rays as possible is to run right up next to the mass of rays in his boat and shoot like crazy.

The hunters I know take pride in their tracking skills and extreme patience. A monkey with a slingshot could kill 40 of these rays with no problems. Real hunters will build blinds and wait for hours for a shot at a buck. They study and understand the animals they kill. The people who slaughter these rays kill them because it is easy. They don’t do it for meat to sell or to feed their families.

The cownose ray does not harm the environment in a meaningful way. The shellfish they eat make up less than ten percent of their diets. They are not the plague that many people believe them to be. These rays migrate through the Chesapeake Bay every year to have their pups. They have been doing this for hundreds of years, just like salmon do in many parts of America. At the current projected population growth rate, the ray population will only increase by approximately 1 percent each year.

There is absolutely no reason to kill these creatures and I certainly do not understand why this has become a tournament. This takes no skill and serves no purpose. The people who participate in these tournaments are hyper-aggressive ignoramuses with no respect for the gift that is life.

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