SOLOMONS ISLAND, Md. (WBFF) - Animal protection groups are calling on Maryland's Department of Natural Resources to halt a bowfishing contest that targets the native cownose rays species.
The contest is scheduled to take place at the Solomon Pier and Boat Ramp on June 26th and features fishers shooting arrows at Cheseapeake Bay fish species. The groups, Fish Feel and SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness), reached out to the DNR to put an end to the annual "bloodbaths" by declaring cownose rays a species in need of conservation, or the groups say, "by taking whatever other action necessary to protect the animals."
However, the DNR says that "the science is still out" and more research needs to be done before determining whether any action to end or regulate the competitions is necessary.
Last year, the advocacy groups filmed the bowfishing contests. The advocates described the cownose rays as being "shot with arrows, impaled, mercilessly beaten, and piled on top of each other to suffocate. Afterwards their bodies are dumped back into the water."
The SHARK/Fish Feel documentation of the event led 136,000 people to sign a petition against the "anima abuse," and a scientific workshop was conducted about the rays. The subsequent report produced warned that the species are "highly vulnerable to human predation," says SHARK/Fish Feel.
"The scientific community is warning that cownose rays urgently need protection, and the public is demanding it. Is the state going to act responsibly or stand by and let countless more of these animals be massacred?" asks Mary Finelli, president of Fish Feel.
In response, the DNR says it "lacks the direct authority to regulate these contests and competitions. However the department is working with our federal partners, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to gather more data and information on the species to determine if it is in need of conservation and protection," says Stephen Schatz, Director of Communications for DNR.