As a result of Senate Bill 268 (proposed in 2016 and approved by the Governor, May 4, 2017), Atlantic cownose rays (Rhinoptera bonasus) were added to the list of species for the development of a fishery management plan (Natural Resource Article Section 4-215). A fishery management plan is a “document that contains a systematic description of a given fishery and the objectives and conservation and management measures for the fishery.” A fishery management plan serves as a long-term framework for successfully managing a species. The purpose of the cownose ray fishery management plan is to address the issues and concerns associated with its life history, the status of the population in the Chesapeake Bay, sources of fishing mortality and interactions with shellfish.
One of the first steps in the development of a fishery management plan is assembling a workgroup. Based on the issues concerning cownose rays, representatives for the workgroup were chosen from the recreational and commercial fishing communities, academic and scientific institutions, conservation groups, animal rights advocates and aquaculture industry. The role of the workgroup is to:
The Cownose Ray Workgroup met in February 2018 to inform the members about the fishery management plan process, to discuss the role of the workgroup, to provide background information on cownose rays, to discuss member’s issues and concerns, and to develop a work schedule.
The Department of Natural Resources, Fishing and Boating Services staff completed a draft biological background for the development of a fishery management plan at the end of June 2018. The draft underwent an in-house review and comments/edits were incorporated into a September draft. A draft document was reviewed by the Cownose Ray Workgroup and comments/edits were incorporated into a December 2019 draft. The biological background on cownose rays will provide the basis for identifying issues and concerns and begin the discussion on management strategies and actions.
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