Cownose ray hunting contest spurs ethics debate
Solomons event organizer says animal rights group is not responsible for fishing tournament’s cancellation
A controversial cownose ray hunting contest in Solomons has been canceled and another one is “in jeopardy,” according to nonprofit organization Showing Animals Respect and Kindness.
In a SHARK press release issued June 8, the Patuxent River Battle of the Rays contest planned for June 11 in Solomons was called off due to lack of sponsorship.
SHARK investigator Stu Chaifetz said that the animal protection group doesn’t take credit for the event’s cancellation, but believes sponsorship may have been jeopardized because they documented and exposed the Battle of the Rays contest last year.
In June 2015, Chaifetz, while undercover, personally observed and filmed the killing and weighing of cownose rays for contest prizes. The footage from that event was included in two YouTube videos titled “Horrific Ray Slaughter on Patuxent River” and “Cruel Bowhunters Shoot Harmless Pregnant Rays.”
Jordan Quade, co-owner of the tournament, confirmed the contest’s cancellation and said in an interview that the event was canceled for personal reasons and has nothing to do with SHARK or related organizations.
The debate over the killing of cownose rays for sport is contentious, varied and ongoing.
“It’s pleasure killing and collecting cash,” Chaifetz said. “Most ethical hunters are against this sport.”
“The reason for hunting is [the cownose rays] absolutely devastate our river. They tear our oyster bars and they devastate our crab population. They are the biggest nuisance for crabbers,” Quade said. “We bowfish hunt for these reasons because they do nothing good for Southern Maryland.”
The cownose rays travel to the Chesapeake Bay’s shallow waters from May to October. During the winter, they head for southern coastal waters, according to the website of the Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional partnership that leads and directs restoration and protection. The site also states the cownose ray “eats mollusks such as oysters, hard clams and soft-shelled clams” and “has been known to destroy bay grass beds and cause considerable losses to commercial clam and oyster harvests while feeding.”
The location of another hunting contest scheduled for June 26 in Solomons may be in jeopardy as well. Chaifetz said the venue for the American BowHunter’s Extreme Bowfishing BIG 5 Stingray Tournament in Solomons Island has been changed twice. Initially, the event was scheduled to be at the Solomons Boat Ramp and then later at the Solomons Volunteer Rescue Squad and Fire Department.
It is unclear where the event weigh-in will be held now.
Event promoter Kurt Wall declined to comment. However, a June 13 post on the American Bowhunters’s Facebook page revealed the June contest is still on in Solomons and the event sign-in will be under the bridge at the Solomons Island Boat Ramp.
“Sorry for the inconvenience we’re just fighting the antis games. Please work with us we can’t let them win. We are doing nothing wrong remember that. Please pass the word,” concluded the Facebook post.
Chaifetz, on behalf of SHARK, does take credit for the disruption in this event’s location. The group contacted Karyn Molines, chief of the Calvert County’s natural resources division, to see if it was permissible for such an event to be held on county property. Through Molines, SHARK learned the boat ramp is owned by the Maryland State Highway Administration and is leased to Calvert County government for public use. Any other use must be authorized by the state.
“I informed the organizers that the special event cannot be held without permission from the state. Organizers of the event stated that they would not use the boat ramp for the event,” said Molines in an emailed statement to APG Media of Chesapeake.
SHARK and sister organization Fish Feel have also petitioned Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton to take action against the contest and slaughter of the cownose rays. To date, SHARK has not received a response from Belton’s administration.
“We are going to try every avenue we can using every nonviolent tool at our disposal to educate the public and politicians about these cruel contests,” stressed Chaifetz. “We are going to do everything we can to expose everyone for their participation in this slaughter.”
If the June 26 event takes place, SHARK intends to take out two boats on the river. Other efforts include issuing a public challenge to event promoters, getting legislation passed to prohibit the hunting contest and organizing petitions opposing these killing contests.
Sheriff Berry congratulates CCSO graduate Thomas Thayer (left) and Vincent Pancotti (right).