Letter to the Editor By "Mary Finelli and Michael Gurwitz"

Mary Finelli and Michael Gurwitz
Killing Cownose Rays is Cruel and Ecologically Reckless.
Dear Editor: The killing contests that target cownose rays must end. As two board members of Fish Feel, a Maryland-based organization which, along with the national organization SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness), documented these contests, we can personally attest to the brutal nature of these events. As our footage shows, the rays are shot with arrows, clubbed, and thrown into piles to suffocate. After the prize money is awarded, the dead rays are dumped back into the water or thrown into dumpsters like garbage. While some contestants claim to eat the rays they kill, it is apparent that most kill these gentle animals for the sake of prize money and the thrill of the hunt. Aside from their barbaric nature, these killing contests are environmentally misguided. The cownose ray population is very vulnerable to predation since the rays are slow to mature and each pregnant female only has a single pup each year. The killing occurs at the time the rays migrate to the Chesapeake Bay to give birth. Hundreds of rays, many pregnant, are indiscriminately slaughtered; this is in addition to the many who are killed outside of the contest days. A small group of individuals can kill dozens of rays in a single day. All of this death and suffering is based on the erroneous notion that cownose rays are responsible for the decline in the oyster population. However, as recent research by Grubbs et al. and a Chesapeake Bay Program report (October 2015) show, the cownose rays have been unfairly scapegoated. Overcollection for human consumption and pollution are far greater threats to the oysters than are cownose rays, a species that is indigenous to the Chesapeake Bay and an important member of the ecosystem. The people who engage in these killing contests claim to do so out of concern for conservation and the health of the Bay. Now that the cownose rays have been exonerated, it is time for them to show that they mean what they say. If they are truly conservationists, they will end their cownose ray killing contests and fishing expeditions. However, if they insist on continuing with this gratuitous killing, then it will be clear that their motivation is not conservation, but instead prize money and killing animals for pleasure. Mary Finelli, President, Fish Feel Michael Gurwitz, Secretary, Fish Feel