Thanks for sharing. Although we find these critters to a nuisance, they are part of the bay and need to be understood before we jump to conclusions and start killing them for kicks and blaming them for the lack of our desired target fish and shellfish populations.
Taken right from the article "the cownose rays, a species native to the Chesapeake — but relatively unknown."
You can't imagine how many times I have told fellow anglers that the Cownose ray is native to the bay and not invasive, only to be told, I am wrong.
nice article, but the evening capital is not a scientific article.
As far as native to the bay, technically very little is native to the Ches bay, as it is only 12-15000 years old having formed at the end of the last glaciation. CNR as a species are much older than that. Also, how does anyone consider a migratory species native of this area?
200 individuals in a school is nothing- in 60s & 70s there were schools of thousands, ( We counted rays in aerial photos in Marine Zoo class @ U Md.)
the tournaments prompted in the backlash & deservedly so. I believe in the law of the jungle- eat what you kill & I have eaten them & they can be very good if properly prepared. In dissections, they reveal themselves to be predators of crabs as well. However hunting them to protect oysters is BS.
Dasher, very interesting to hear about the historical aerial counts. I constantly hear that we have more cownose rays now than "ever," but verifying that is hard to do (at least for me). My own personal experience is that I see no more rays now than I did in the early 80s, when I first started fishing the Bay, but I don't get out there as much as many of you. I do hear of more folks snagging rays, but those accounts seem to have roughly coincided with the sudden popularity of huge trolling spreads and planer boards about a dozen years ago, so those accounts could be due to increased effort rather than more rays.
As for their ability to destroy oyster reefs, I remain a skeptic. The lower-Severn has high ray concentrations and is also home to large oyster reef restoration projects where millions of spat-on-shell have been planted. I specifically asked one of the chief restorers about loss from rays. She told me that they hadn't encountered any such loss. I also spoke with a NOAA (I think) diver. He said that at least some of the "ray damage" to reefs in the mid-Bay appeared more likely to be from commercial harvesting, some other damage was from anchors and, in one case, from a barge or other large vessel scrapping the bottom. And then there's the VIMS study that apparently found the jaws of cownose rays to be too week to crush anything other than very small oysters.
So, I'm glad this study is happening. Given their low reproductive rate, we ought to at least confirm the problem with methods better than anecdotal word of mouth. I hate to snag them, but love to watch them -- it would be a shame to lose these fish.
They do play hell on clam bags used in trot lining. Of course razor clams have rather thin shells.
One positive thing about them is they teach us how to fight a fish on relatively light tackle and how to set your drag. I fight them, get them to the boat and then cut the line. I consider them fun to catch once in a while.
Haul seiners used to kill their share but that fishery is dead. Between them, blue cats,flat head cats, channel cats and all the rock fish it is a wonder we have either crab. Nothing they like better than baby oysters and clams.