Annapolis, MD – On Feb. 26 the Maryland Senate passed Senate Bill (SB) 143, to extend the moratorium on cownose ray killing contests in the Chesapeake Bay until a fishery management plan is created for the species. Sponsored by Senator Ron Young [D- District 3], it was approved by a unanimous vote of 46-0.

A 2017 law placed a two-year moratorium on sponsoring, conducting or participating in a cownose ray killing contest for prizes in Maryland waters to allow the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) time to prepare a fishery management plan for regulating the take of the species. Since the deadline is fast approaching with no management plan in place, it is critical to extend the prohibition until the DNR fulfills its mandate.

During the contests, which were held every summer for decades in Maryland prior to the passage of the 2017 bill, participants competed for prizes for killing the heaviest rays, who were often pregnant females who migrated into the bay to give birth. The rays were hauled out of the water, beaten to death and then discarded after the contest’s conclusion.

“Brutally slaughtering cownose rays for cash and prizes is not something Maryland should be known for,” said Emily Hovermale, Maryland state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “We commend the Senate for recognizing that the moratorium was near its sunset and ensuring that these ecologically damaging contests will remain prohibited.”

The House version, HB 213, is awaiting the final House vote.