FSU Researchers Debunk Science Magazine Article on Rays

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By:Erin Lisch

May 20, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.-Cownose rays are majestic creatures and a study by FSU is helping them out.

This is after FSU researchers debunked an article about these predators that was published nine years ago in Science Magazine.

Cownose rays, they're brown, sleek, and glide effortlessly through the sea.

But for a long time, these creatures were considered villains according to research published in 2007.

FSU Researcher Dr. Dean Grubbs said, "It claimed basically large scale declines of sharks led to population explosions of their prey and the main prey item they were talking about was cownose rays."

Dr. Grubbs has studied these rays for ten years.

"What we found is that that relationship was untrue on all levels," said Dr. Grubbs.

His data shows there's no possible way these rays are the problem.

"They take 7 to 8 years to reach maturity so they have a life history that's very vulnerable. And not capable for population explosions," said Dr. Grubbs.

But since the initial 2007 research, fisheries are now killing rays. The reason is to keep them from oysters, making them scapegoats.

"When actually the rays were eating predators of the oysters like crabs eating the oysters by killing the rays they're actually killing the oyster population," said Dr. Grubbs.

An avid fisherman, Paul Wisenbaker said, "I don't think it's right because the ecosystem forms on itself and everything's got a project out there that they do and everything's got a place."

According to activist groups, .fisheries and spearfishing tournaments that follow the campaign "Save the Bay Eat a Ray" could jeopardize that ray population.

A video we received from one organization SHARK, shows unidentified fishermen fatally beating rays and throwing them back to sea. SHARK tells us they feel it's wrong and some local fisherman agree.

"I don't believe any animal should be killed just for slaughter," said Wisenbaker.

With 41 years of fishing experience, Tammie Jackson said, "If you're going to fish, fish and release or fish and eat. Basically that's how it should go, just don't kill for fun."

"These bowfishing tournaments that just go out and they basically kill cownose rays just as many as they can kill and they're not used that's very dangerous for an animal that produces only a single offspring every year," said Dr. Grubbs.

Not killing for fun is the goal for the FSU research team.They hope to limit the harvesting of cownose rays until they can figure out how many of these creatures are actually left.