(Featured image credit: FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)
Here’s something positive you can do on behalf of animal welfare today: write to Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources at <FisheriesPublicComment.DNR@maryland.gov> before midnight tonight, asking them to pass regulations banning bowhunting of cownose rays from July 1st through December 31st. Feel free to borrow from what I wrote to them:
Dear Maryland Department of Natural Resources,
I am writing as the director of Animal People, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting animal protection causes, asking that you please pass the proposed regulation to limit bowfishing of cownose rays in Chesapeake Bay.
Claimed scientific evidence that the rays deplete scallop populations, on which basis the species is now targeted by fishermen for sport killing, has been debunked by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and Florida State University. Ray fishing tournaments often involve acts of egregious cruelty, including shooting and clubbing rays to death, and are highly wasteful, frequently discarding the corpses of animals too small to win prizes.
Furthermore, research on one of cownose rays’ close relatives, the Manta ray, at the University of South Florida suggests that rays may be self-aware, as demonstrated by their ability to recognize themselves in a mirror. If so, these fish are likely highly intelligent and capable of both physical and psychological suffering, and deserve ethical consideration as well as legal protection from abuse.
Ideally, the Department of Natural Resources would ban all killing of cownose rays for sport in Maryland waters. However, restricting their killing by prohibiting the use of archery equipment from July 1st to December 31st would be an important step forward, protecting pregnant females and pups present in Chesapeake Bay at that time from one of the worst forms of cruelty.
I urge that the Department please pass the proposed regulation. Thank you for considering this appeal on behalf of Maryland’s wildlife.