They are the gentle giants of the ocean, weighing as much as 1400 kilograms. But an emerging market in Chinese medicine for gill rakers is threatening global populations of giant manta rays.
Now, amid increasing international efforts to curb the decline, the federal government will today protect the species - found predominantly in the tropical waters of northern Australia - under national environment law.
Last week, Project AWARE attended an international, shark-focused meeting of more than 50 nations, all convening under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). While at the meeting in Bonn, Germany, nations adopted a global conservation plan for great white sharks, porbeagles, basking sharks, spiny dogfish, whale sharks, and two species of makos.
They’re easy targets. Moving slowly through the ocean, often in predictable aggregations – these gentle, filter-feeding giants and their smaller cousins the devil rays - are being fished at an alarming rate.