How this ray became a scapegoat in the Chesapeake Bay

    Cownose rays were blamed for the decline in scallops. (<a href=Photo by Citron / CC-BY-SA-3.0) " title="ray" width="640" height="360"/>

    Cownose rays were blamed for the decline in scallops. (Photo by Citron / CC-BY-SA-3.0)

    In 2007, scientists got it wrong about the cownose ray. Now, they’re trying to reverse the species’ reputation before it’s too late. 

    In 2007, a study was published that claimed that the population of cownose rays in the Chesapeake Bay had exploded. Because of the explosion, it was believed that these rays were eating too many scallops and oysters. 

    The response to the publication was deafening — people coined the slogan “Save the bay, eat a ray,” and even organized bowhunting tournaments to kill the rays during their migration. 

    Earlier this year, a group of scientists published a rebuttal to the earlier paper, proving that they got it wrong in 2007.

    “It’s biologically impossible for cownose ray populations to explode,” says Dean Grubbs, a fish ecologist at Florida State University, and one of the authors of the rebuttal. Cownose rays only have one pup every year, making it difficult for their population to “explode” as the 2007 study had claimed. Because of the slow rate of reproduction, the efforts to fish for these rays could be especially harmful. 

    “Our main concern,” Grubbs says, “was to encourage managers to actually develop management plans for cownose rays if they’re going to develop a fishery.” 

    If people aren’t careful, cownose rays will be the ones who pay for it. 

    Listen to the full interview above. 

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