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. (Find out more about that in an interview with Andrea “Queen of mantas” Marshall on the Naked Oceans podcast)
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.
The CMS listing for mantas was announced at this week’s conference of parties in Norway. Sonja Fordham, president of Shark Advocates International, was there to represent a clutch of conservation groups that support the manta listing.
“We are elated that the CMS Parties have embraced Ecuador’s proposal for protecting the magnificent and exceptionally vulnerable giant manta ray” .
It was announced a few weeks ago that the giant manta has been listed by IUCN as Vulnerable to extinction.
And here’s a teaser from the beautiful film, Manta – Ray of Hope , that shows just what all the fuss is surrounding these incredible ocean giants: