Majestic manta ray designated vulnerable species

Nov 15, 2011

Diving with the majestic manta ray is an eco-tourist’s dream come true that may soon be experienced only by viewing pictures and videos of the shark family’s graceful giants.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group (SSG), based at Simon Fraser University, has added the Giant and Reef manta rays to its Red List of Threatened .

The IUCN SSG, a worldwide network of scientists co-chaired by SFU biologist Nick Dulvy, has declared manta rays Vulnerable with an elevated risk of extinction. Intense fishing fuelled by international demand is wiping out these iconic species by the hundreds.

Until recently, known as one species, the Giant (Manta birostris) and Reef (Manta alfredi) are among the largest fish in the world. The Giant manta ray can grow to more than seven metres across.

Swimming, diving and filming expeditions with manta rays, the top stars in eco-tourism, especially in developing countries, reportedly generate $100 million annually, worldwide.

Manta rays migrate vast distances, crossing international boundaries, in search of food. Increased fishing is depleting their far-flung feeding stations and fishers seeking their food-gathering gill rakers have become manta rays’ greatest predators.

“Given that manta rays have a very low reproduction rate — they give birth to an average of one offspring every two years — they are very vulnerable to overexploitation,” says Dulvy. “They are a long-lived species with little capacity to cope with modern fishing methods and globalized demand from rising human populations.”

“Increasing demand for these fishes’ filter-feeding system for traditional Chinese medicinal purposes, especially in Hong Kong, is rapidly driving down their population everywhere,” says Lucy Harrison. An SFU alumna and biologist, Harrison is the program officer for IUCN SSG.

Mantra ray populations are in steep decline in several regions, with a reduction in numbers by as much as 80 per cent during the last 75 years. Globally, the decline is believed to be more than 30 per cent.

“We can save manta rays — the solution is in our hands,” says Dulvy. He and his IUCN SSG colleagues recommend the creation of international conservation treaties to protect manta rays. They also recommend the following:

Using the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES) to monitor and regulate the trade and exploitation of manta rays.

Enacting legislation in countries to reduce and eventually prevent fishing pressures on manta rays through controlled trade.

Explore further: Japan lawmakers demand continued whaling

Provided by Simon Fraser University

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists target manta ray mysteries

May 01, 2007

Manta rays are hard to miss —big, black and stretching up to seven metres wide, but scientists are still in the dark about the world's largest ray.

Mayan glyphs detail priest's life, blood sacrifices

Dec 29, 2009

Experts are studying the first Mayan hieroglyphic script dealing with the life of a high priest, his blood sacrifices and acts of penance, Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said.

Ocean's fiercest predators now vulnerable to extinction

Feb 17, 2008

The numbers of many large shark species have declined by more than half due to increased demand for shark fins and meat, recreational shark fisheries, as well as tuna and swordfish fisheries, where millions of sharks are ...

Recommended for you

Japan lawmakers demand continued whaling

16 hours ago

Japanese lawmakers on Wednesday demanded the government redesign its "research" whaling programme to circumvent an international court ruling that described the programme as a commercial hunt dressed up as ...

EU must take urgent action on invasive species

19 hours ago

The EU must take urgent action to halt the spread of invasive species that are threatening native plants and animals across Europe, according to a scientist from Queen's University Belfast.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

Sony's PlayStation 4 sales top seven million

Sony says it has sold seven million PlayStation 4 worldwide since its launch last year and admitted it can't make them fast enough, in a welcome change of fortune for the Japanese consumer electronics giant.