To Maryland State Legislators,
Re: Support SB 268/House Bill 211 Cownose Ray Fishing Tournaments – Prohibition
Dear Maryland Legislators,
This letter is in support of Senate Bill 298/ HB 211 (Robinson, Young) to prohibit a person from organizing, sponsoring, promoting,conducting, or participating in a cownose ray fishing tournament in State waters. Tournaments using archery equipment are discriminately targeting rays and killing them for sport in unregulated and non permitted competitions.
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Cownose rays migrate up the Atlantic Ocean to the bay in May to give birth to their pups and mate almost immediately afterward. But tragically, the rays’ migration now may end in a cruel, senseless death through inhumane contests that are currently unregulated. Evidence of videos and witnesses show sportsmen killing large quantities of rays in fishing tournaments, and then discarding the bodies. The ray population will soon be imperiled at this level of killing for sport and can have manifest impacts on ecosystem health, and even commercial fisheries in state waters.
Cownose rays are part of the natural Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. A 2016 report by a team of scientists led by Florida State University researcher Dean Grubbs debunked an earlier study that suggested cownose rays were harmful to oysters and shellfish populations. The report explains that oyster declines were due to disease, over-harvesting, over-sedimentation and habitat loss. These rays play an important role in the ecology of the bay and overfishing these rays can further destabilize the health of the ecosystem.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources issued a public scoping notice for proposed regulations prohibiting the use of projectile gear for recreational anglers to catch cownose rays from July 1 through Dec. 31. However these contests often take place before July 1, sometimes as early as May, but frequently in June killing pregnant females Rays are particularly vulnerable to overfishing since their population growth is so slow. Cownose rays have one of the lowest lifetime fertility estimates of any fish species since they mature late and give live birth to just one pup a year.
It is imperative that Maryland enacts not only a ban on using archery equipment to catch cownose rays starting in May but also a full ban of contests for rays.