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.
International trade in gill rakers – the tight-knit, feathery structures these filter feeders use to strain plankton – is driven by Asian markets for Chinese medicine and poses an immediate threat to their survival. Catch of mantas reported to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has almost quadrupled in seven years.
Mantas have been classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They are at particular risk to overfishing because they produce very few young. Many populations have already been depleted by unregulated fishing. Although legally protected in some nations and specific aggregation areas, these gentle giants migrate to unprotected waters of other countries and the high seas.
Dollars and Sense
Like sharks, mantas are at the top of diver’s must-see list. Operations that offer manta diving and swimming programs are increasingly profitable and bring significant economic benefits to coastal communities across the globe. The Manta Ray of Hope project estimates the worldwide value of manta-based tourism and filming at $100 million USD per year.
With gill rakers fetching a one-time payout of $250 per kilogram for a pseudo-medicinal product, is it really worth the destruction?
Project AWARE and our partners succeeded in helping to protect mantas under the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) in 2011, extend additional CMS protections to devil rays and other sharks in 2014 and regulate international trade in those species under CITES in 2013. Make a donation today to ensure that Project AWARE continues critical work to protect mantas and their close relatives the devil rays through:
Implemented International Agreements: Currently, only the giant manta ray is protected under the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS). Local and national protections must complement existing and much needed future regional and international agreements essential to effectively protecting all of these wanderers.
Enforced International Trade Controls: International trade controls under CITES for manta rays must be implemented and enforced to ensure trade doesn’t threaten the survival of the species. Devil rays threatened by international trade should be considered for listing under CITES.
Drop In Demand: Reduced demand for gill rakers and other manta and devil ray products.
What You Can Do
- Snorkel or dive with mantas to support a valuable alternative to fishing.
- Choose locally owned operators who employ local staff.
- Make sure your guides follow procedures and local codes of conduct intended to protect mantas during viewing experiences.
- Be inspired by action taken at a community level.