Marine biologist to appear on ‘Virginia Farming’

| June 21, 2012

Professor of biology and Sweet Briar’s resident “shark man” John Morrissey will appear on “Virginia Farming” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 22 on the public television station WVPT.  “Virginia Farming” is a weekly news series for and about the agricultural industry and is produced at WVPT’s studio in Harrisonburg.

The show will be rebroadcast on WVPT at noon June 23 and 11 a.m. June 24. “Virginia Farming” also airs at 11:30 a.m. Saturdays on Blue Ridge PBS stations and at other times on Richmond’s WCVE stations and West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Viewing times are available on the stations’ websites.

Morrissey, a marine biologist, will be discussing the plight of cownose rays with the show’s host, Amy Roscher. Wondering what Morrissey and cownose rays — a species often seen swimming tranquilly around “touch tanks” at public aquariums — have to do with Virginia farmers? The short answer is, some people want to begin harvesting the rays for their meat.

Every summer the rays migrate in huge numbers into the Chesapeake Bay, where they are thought to compete for commercially valuable shellfish such as oysters and clams. Establishing a fishery for the rays to control their numbers is one proposed solution to this perceived threat to the watermen’s livelihood. But Morrissey believes such a fishery could put the cownose rays in far more danger than they pose to the fishes they prey on.

He will discuss why he thinks so, and talk about the research he and current and former Sweet Briar students are conducting in an effort to change the minds of those who want to see cownose rays on dinner plates across Virginia.

Read more about cownose ray research at Sweet Briar here and here.

Contact: Jennifer McManamay

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