March 1, 2019

Senate Unanimously Passes Legislation to Continue Protections for Cownose Rays

A Tuesday vote of the Maryland Senate saw legislation (Senate Bill 143) unanimously pass to extend the current moratorium on cownose ray fishing in Maryland. The legislation sponsored by Senator Ron Young (District 3 – Frederick County), was introduced this session to extend a current ban on cownose ray fishing tournaments until December 31, 2020.

In 2017, Young sponsored similar legislation (Senate Bill 268) which placed a moratorium on cownose ray fishing until this year and required the Department of Natural Resources to release a management plan for the species. To date, the required plan has not been submitted and thus the necessity for the 2019 legislation to extend the moratorium on the harvesting of cownose rays.

Long misunderstood, cownose rays are complex creatures that have to be treated very carefully in order to ensure the survival of the species. According to the website of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States Department of Commerce: “… Because cownose ray populations grow slowly, we need to make decisions very carefully. Effects from these decisions will last a long time because if the population is reduced too much, it would take a long time to recover.”

Unanimously supported by the full Maryland Senate, the legislation also boasted bipartisan co-sponsorship including Senators Elfreth (District 30 – Anne Arundel), Feldman (District 15 – Montgomery), Guzzone (District 13 – Howard), Kagan (District 17 – Montgomery), Klausmeier (District 8 – Baltimore County), Kramer (District 19 – Montgomery), Lam (District 12 – Baltimore and Howard Counties), Lee (District 16 – Montgomery), Nathan-Pulliam (District 44 – Baltimore City and Baltimore County), Smith (District 20 – Montgomery), Washington (District 43 – Baltimore City), West (District 42 – Baltimore County), and Zirkin (District 11 – Baltimore County).

Senate Bill 143 now moves to the Maryland House of Delegates where it will be considered in the House Environment and Transportation Committee. The legislation is cross-filed with House Bill 213 (sponsored by Delegate Dana Stein) which successfully passed through the Environment of Transportation Committee on February 25th and is currently before the full House of Delegates for consideration. All legislation must successfully pass both the Maryland Senate and the Maryland House of Delegates by Sine Die on Monday, April 8th to be sent to Governor Hogan to be approved or vetoed.

Cownose Ray