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Animal rights group alleges abuse of cownose rays after graphic video surfaces

Fisherman handling a cownose ray, Monday, June 22, 2015. (WJLA Photo)

MECHANICSVILLE, Md. (WJLA) - An animal rights group has made public undercover videos it said shows inhumane treatment of cownose rays found in the Chesapeake Bay.

Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK) said it took the undercover videos during the "Battle of the Rays" contest held on the Patuxent River near Mechanicsville June 13.

The videos show participants shooting Atlantic cownose rays with arrows and then clubbing them in the head before bringing them onto boats.

One video allegedly shows a contestant trying to put a baby cownose ray back into a dead mother so the mother would weigh more and help win the contest.

Warning: The following video is graphic in nature.

"It really just goes to show you the type of depravity that these killing contests generate," said Mary Finelli of Silver Srping. Her group Fish Feel helped SHARK try to draw attention to what they said is an inhumane contest that needs to be banned.

But Jerry Denton, who helped organize the contest, told ABC7 by phone there's a very valid reason for it.

"It's not inhumane, it's not barbaric," Denton said.

He said cownose rays, or skate, damage oyster and crab beds in the Chesapeake Bay region. He said workers on oyster boats in particular often beg fishermen to kill nearby skate.

He said the reason participants in the contest club the skate before bringing them on the boat is twofold: one reason is that their barbs are poisonous, and he said the other is because it is inhumane to bring a ray aboard alive and leave it gasping for air until it dies.

A spokesperson with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources said there is nothing illegal about killing the cownose rays. In response to requests about the contest, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released the following statement:

"There is currently very little scientific data available on the cownose ray population in the Chesapeake Bay and given this limited information, the DNR cannot put a management plan in place at the state level.

However, DNR is currently working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other Bay states to pull together a workshop on the species and discuss possible management actions across the watershed in the future."

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