Activists Speak Out Against the Cruel Cownose Ray Tournament

Cownose rays are a species of eagle rays. They are gentle creatures, with zoos and aquariums often offering guests opportunities to interact with and touch them. Its genus name, Rhinoptera, pays tribute to the unique attributes on the ray’s body. At the root of the name is the Greek for “nose” (rhinos) and “wing” (pteron).

The species is not native to one specific area, either. Cownose rays can be found in the eastern and western Atlantic Ocean, New England, Northern Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. They are a common sight to tourists who are vacationing along these waters’ beaches.

Male rays often grow to 35 inches, with females normally reaching 28 inches. Despite opportunities to pet these creatures at zoos and aquariums, they do have a stinger on their tails. The tail is also coated with “teeth” along the edges that secrete a weak venom. The venom is not lethal and results in symptoms similar to a bee sting.

With aquariums and zoos orienting their visitors with these creatures, it’s no surprise there are a group of passionate people who want to stop an annual cownose ray tournament. People are enthralled with the way these animals glide through the water, they have seen images and videos of friendly rays pop up throughout the Internet. These rays are mysterious creatures that are, at the same time, accessible and recognizable. People enjoy watching and learning about them.

On June 13, the first Patuxent River Battle of the Rays took place in Mechanicsville, Maryland. At the event, footage surfaced showing the cruel catching tactics involved in the tournament. The video circulated and picked up speed, with many people outraged at the torture inflicted on these graceful and interesting creatures. In the footage shown below, fishers in boats are shown shooting the rays with arrows and grabbing them from the water as the rays flail in order to escape. In order to quell them, the fishers beat them on the heads. If the rays are lucky, they die from the impact. If not, they are dropped into a bucket to suffocate to death.

Warning: this video includes graphic footage

Two animal rights groups have taken action against the River Battle of the Rays. They not only worked to circulate the footage, but have asked Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to keep the event from happening again.

Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK) and Fish Feel are putting pressure on Gov. Hogan. The groups were also responsible for the undercover footage shot during the festival.

Stuart Chaifetz, a member of SHARK, told Maryland media, “This was really one of the most brutal acts of animal cruelty I’ve witnessed, and I’ve witnessed a lot over the past 20 years.”

Chaifetz also added that most of the rays caught were pregnant and gave birth while dying. The video shows members of the tournament trying to keep the babies in, since they get more points for higher ray weight.

While the event’s organizers refused to comment to the media, you can find them, however, insulting people on their Facebook page.


Ask Maryland officials to put an end to cruel contests like the “River Battle of the Rays” and to protect the ray population by signing this petition.

Photo Credit: GeorgiaAquariumr


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

Maryland. OMG. Those smug snobbers do this for entertainment? What the hell is wrong with you idiots. If this is your entertainment move to Japan, China or Denmark. You are sick and twisted as previously described. I don't understand the evil mentallity that it takes to do such torturous acts to an animal. You people are disgusting.

Jacqueline GLYDE4 years ago

I have posted on their facebook page,telling them that they are a bunch of sick twisted that need to get a job.

Magdalena J.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thank you!

Telica Randall-Fraser
Telica R4 years ago


Ruhee B.
Ruhee B4 years ago

Petition signed - couldn't bear to watch the pictures. Hope these scum burn in hell.

Simon Tucker
Simon Tucker4 years ago

There are so many psychopaths in the US; why can't some of these awful people run across one of them and get their just desserts?

Patti Ruocco
Patti Ruocco4 years ago

It is so sad that humans can't find better entertainment than real men!! Pick on someone your own size!! If you need to express your Y chromosome with violence (an no--thank God not all men do)--then beat the crap out of each other!! Oh wait--that might mean you have to get hurt---ugh!! cowards!!

Miriam O.

Thank you so much for sharing with us, really hard to watch! So, so sad!

Julie Cannon
Julie Cannon4 years ago

So sad.