“ Sharks and manta rays have received protection today under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES member nations, referred to as “Parties,” voted to increase protections for five species of sharks as well as two species of manta rays. Leading up to and during this meeting, the United States has worked with a coalition of countries committed to gaining support for these proposals…
In addition to oceanic white tip sharks, proposals to increase protection for three species of￼ hammerhead sharks – scalloped hammerhead, great hammerhead, and smooth hammerhead;￼￼ porbeagle sharks; and manta rays were adopted by the Parties…”
A Manta Ray, Manta birostris, opens its mouth wide to engulf zooplankton and other tidbits in the water. The dark marks visible inside the mouth are its gill slits. Manta rays, which are filter feeders and have vestigial teeth, often appear to be curious about human divers. WHOI biologist Simon Thorrold photographed the ray while studying fish on and around coral reefs in the Red Sea in May, 2010, as part of WHOI’s research collaboration with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
(via: NSF Science 360)
(photo: Simon Thorrold, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
Giant manta rays hit the ocean headlines today with the news that they are to gain their first ever global protection from the many problems they face.
Giant mantas (Manta birostris) are to be added to the Convention on Migratory Species (or CMS), an intergovernmental treaty set up to help get nations working together to conserve the endangered animals that roam around our planet, ignoring the political boundaries we set up.
The biggest threat to mantas is fishing. They are enormous and like to hang in predicable spots, making them an easy catch. And fishermen are increasingly targeting them to feed emerging demand from the traditional east Asian medicine trade for manta ray gill rakers – the comb-like structures inside their huge mouths that sieve tiny plankton food from the water column.
All nations signed up to the convention that are lucky enough to have manta rays gracing their waters, will now have to make concerted efforts to protect both mantas and their critical areas of habitat. CMS listing will also spearhead international efforts to protect these giant cousins of sharks.
Currently mantas are protected by national laws in a number of countries including Hawaii, Maldives, Philippines, and Ecuador. But being such immense swimmers, they often migrate into unprotected waters.
A manta ray once thought to be a single species is actually two species: the Reef Manta Ray (Manta alfredi) and the Giant Manta Ray (Manta birostris) (shown here), both of which are now classified as vulnerable. Considered the largest living ray, the giant manta ray can grow to more than 23 feet (7 meters) across.
Manta ray products have a high value in international trade markets and targeted fisheries hunt them for their valuable gill rakers used in traditional Chinese medicine. Monitoring and regulation of the exploitation and trade of both manta ray species is urgently needed, as well as protection of key habitats, according to the IUCN.
… the largest species of the rays. The largest known specimen was more than 7.6 metres (25 ft) across, with a weight of about 1,300 kilograms (2,900 lb). It ranges throughout waters of the world, typically around coral reefs. They have the largest brain-to-body ratio of the sharks, rays and skates (Elasmobranchii), brain which is kept warm during lengthy dives to as deep as 500 metres in cold water… (read more: Wikipedia)
Andrea Marshall talks to us about discovering a second species of giant manta ray. Working from a remote part of Mozambique for the last five years she has come across a discovery which changes the way we see giant mantas completely.