A 16-year old Marylander hopes Gov. Larry Hogan will stop the killing of cownose rays, collecting 94,000 petition signatures to back her up.
Charli Holland, 16, of New Market said she was horrified after she learned about cownose ray tournaments on the Chesapeake Bay. These tournaments are sometimes held in Anne Arundel County, where fishermen get on boats, shoot the rays with arrows, hit them with a bat to stun them and then put them in a bucket to be weighed later.
Some of the rays are kept for food, while others, dead after suffocating outside the water, are dumped back into the Chesapeake Bay. Pregnant rays are not spared, and sometimes are prime hunting targets as the unborn babies can add to a ray's weight and help the fishermen win the competition.
"They are using them for their own entertainment," Charli said. "They get prizes for killing these animals, and they just drop them into the bay like they are nothing."
Charli said she partnered with her friend, Deja Davis, 18, of Washington, D.C., to craft the petition, hoping it will gain enough traction to draw notice from Hogan.
The petition comes after wildlife advocate groups showed undercover footage of the ray tournaments at the Annapolis Regional Library.
Fishermen and participants in the ray killing tournaments say they hold the competitions to cull the ray population. The cownose ray is known to feed on oysters and other economically important shellfish.
As of 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Holland's petition has 94,145 signatures from Maryland, California and as far away as the United Kingdom, Germany, Portugal and Austria.
The petition is listed on http://www.thepetitionsite.com, home of Care2 Petitions. It was started June 22 and features a wide geographic scope of signers due to the reach of the website, said Julie Mastrine, Care2 spokeswoman.
"Care2 has over 30 million members, so that means people from all over the world use the site," Mastrine said. "A lot of these people are passionate about animal welfare regardless of wether an issue is local to them."
Holland said the breadth of the petition signers is a positive sign.
"It is better that other (non-Maryland) people are supporting my petition, because it is happening in other places," she said.
Hogan officials said the Department of Natural Resources is looking into the cownose ray population. They started doing this after the wildlife advocates brought the issue to their attention on June 22.
Even with Charli's petition gathering attention from across the globe, it will take some time to get answers about the population. DNR officials said not too much is known about the impact that the cownose ray population has on the bay, so more research is needed.
So, for now, Charli said she plans to continue gathering signatures and pressing for the governor to make a decision.