Maryland and Virginia are home to stingray killing contests that some advocates claim serve to protect local seafood industries while others are uneasy about recreational mass-killing competitions.
As to the environmental necessity of such “contests”, there is room for debate.
According to the Census of Marine Life website, the (native) cownose stingray population, the species of ray that’s being hunted, has exploded due to, ironically, the overfishing of its main predator, sharks.
The result is that masses of cownose rays now populate the waters of the Mid-Atlantic U.S. According to various sources, this explosion of cownose stingrays single-handedly wiped out North Carolina’s bay scallop fishery industry. Because the rays feed on small shellfish, oyster and clam populations are also further depleted according to the University of North Carolina. Although, it would be remiss not to mention again that the reason they are depleted in the first place is due to overfishing and pollution.
In response, Virginia has actually come up with the slogan, ‘Save the Bay, Eat a Ray.’
The state is promoting the cownose stingray as seafood. The meaty ray packs about 7 lbs. of flesh which looks more like red meat than fish and supposedly tastes more like veal, steak, or pork, than seafood.
Consumers have so far been tepid, but with a little more marketing that could change. Americans used to look down on squid until it became “calamari.” Patagonian toothfish became Chilean sea bass, and what was once such a cheap fish that it could have been “given away,” it got so over-fished that consumers were discouraged from eating it.
Scientists fear the same fate for the cownose stingray if the market takes off, or if the killing contests get further out of hand.
As for the contests themselves, with so many dead rays (the most prized of which are pregnant females), it’s likely that hordes just get dumped at sea. If the overfishing of sharks and shellfish is what caused the problem in the first place, it’s hard to imagine how indulging in brazenly wasteful massacre will remedy the problem in the long-term.
Besides creating a stingray industry, shellfish hatcheries may be able to invest in technology which can protect their stocks from predators.
In the end, if both the environmentalists and the hunters are able to temper their ideologies and look at things soberly, it’s possible that coastal states’ shellfish industries can be protected, and that we may be able to avoid furthering man-made ecological and wildlife disasters.
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