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Group Looks To Ban 'Grotesque' Cownose Ray Bowfishing Tournament

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Fishing tournaments don't normally end up being debated in Annapolis, but one is this year.

Alex DeMetrick reports on a controversial contest held on the Potomac that some Marylanders want to see shut down.

"It's just grotesque, cruelty, truly," says Mary Finelli, of the Save The Rays Coalition.

At the center of the debate is the cownose ray, which enters the Chesapeake and its rivers every summer to reproduce.

A bowfishing tournament targeting them is what animal rights activists want Maryland lawmakers to ban.

"Just whacking away at these animals as they're desperately flailing around," Finelli says. "It's totally merciless. And then they put them in a bucket to suffocate."

Backers of the ban say the tournament threatens the ray population. Opponents disagree.

"There's been no scientific facts backing what the antis are saying, you know it's pure[ly] emotional on their end," says Kurt Wall, of the American Bowhunters Organization. "We're not being heard as bowhunters and hunters and outdoorsmen. We're not being heard."

Maryland's Waterman's Association backs fishing the rays, claiming the rays eat the oysters they depend on for a living.

The worry is one ban on rays will lead to more, leaving more rays to eat the oysters.

A workshop conducted by the National Aquarium found rays do eat oysters, but not as their primary food source.

"Scientists have pointed out they're being scapegoated for the decrease in the oyster population, which in actuality are due to over-fishing for human consumption, pollution and disease," according to Finelli.

Arguments for and against the tournament are a long way from a vote, but backers of banning it say they already have a petition signed by 150,000 supporters.

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