Catching Rays -- Stingrays -- on the Jersey Shore

If you can't beat 'em, eat them, say some along The Shore

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Stingrays are becoming more popular in Jersey Shore waters -- and Jersey Shore dishes. (Published Tuesday, Aug 2, 2011)

    Stingray sightings along the Jersey Shore appear to be on the increase, highlighted last week when an ocean bather was stung at Island Beach State Park.

    A fisherman and his son caught two of the rays in Barnegat Bay last week.

    "I've fished there my entire life and never saw a ray caught," Tony Muzyka wrote in an email after sharing video of his catch with NBC New York.

    Climate change may be one reason for the more frequent sightings of the southern stingray, which prefers warmer waters.

    "We're at the northernmost part of their range," said Jennifer Zebrowski, of Jenkinsons Aquarium in Point Pleasant Beach.

    But she added that as the ocean temperature along the Jersey Shore warms, stingrays will be seen more and more often.  They are already a problem in Chesapeake Bay.

    The Wegman's grocery chain, in concert with an environmental group, began selling stingray meat at its 77 stores three weeks ago.

    "Save the Bay, eat a ray," is the slogan repeated by James Lane, the seafood team leader for Wegman's in Ocean Township.

    Rays eat shellfish, and Lane said they are getting the blame for hurting efforts to return the Chesapeake Bay to a healthy place for oysters and mussels to grow.

    Lane said the ray meat, which at $7.99 a pound is one-third of the price of halibut, is selling well.

    What does it taste like?

    Wegman's Cooking Coach Paul Malinowski prepared both grilled and pan-seared ray and it doesn't taste like fish, or chicken for that matter.

    Instead, it has a taste and texture akin to beef.

    Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY