I admit it. I didn't know much about the elusive devils ray until more recently.
I'd heard of and dived with heaps of stingrays as well as sighting the majestic and graceful manta ray on some far off dive trips. But I'd overlooked the devil.
And shame on me because these incredible and breathtaking species truly deserve our attention.
Found throughout the tropical and temperate ocean, there are nine species of devil rays all together. These mobula rays are smaller than their manta cousins but display very similar characteristics. They are slow growing, produce only one or two pups per litter and are highly susceptible to fishing pressures.
Mobula rays are also easy targets. Primarily because they move slowly through the ocean, often near the surface in predictable aggregations. Yet despite several conservation commitments and international mandates very few countries ban or even limit devil ray fishing.
Sadly the devils have now become some of the most vulnerable animals in our ocean.
Controls on fishing and trade are severely lacking. And demand for the devils' gill plates - the tight knit feathery structures these filter feeders use to strain plankton - is rising. The market for a Chinese health tonic - where the gill plates are used - has created an incentive to fish for these vulnerable species. And it's profitable, with even small gill plates fetching $133 per kg.
This September 2016, brings new hope for the devils when the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES CoP17) convenes. There, the Fijian government, already backed by 21 countries and the EU, will seek the support of the majority of the 182 CITES parties to put in place limits on the international trade in all nine devil ray species under CITES Appendix II listing.
At the last CITES CoP16, you helped Project AWARE secure similar measures for manta rays and we’re counting on you again this year as we’re advocating for the devils.
I’m now a self-confessed devil fan, a passionate advocate for these incredible, breathtaking animals. But we need more devil advocates in the world! You can join me and learn more about devil and manta rays conservation status, threats to their survival, and ways you can help protect them.
Watch and share our ‘Why are Devil and Mantas at Risk?’ video above. Post to your social media or website and share with your friends.
And if you've ever seen a devil ray or manta on your dive adventures we'd love to know about it! Share your story with our My Ocean community.
Thanks for your support.
You can donate to our CITES CoP17 campaign and other actions to help protect threatened sharks and rays by visiting www.projectaware.org/donate.