99% of the manta gill plate trade is in Guangzhou, China
Listed by the IUCN as ‘Vulnerable’, the primary threat to the Manta species is unsustainable fisheries driven by a growing demand for their gills used in a medically unproven ‘health tonic’. New data showing their acute biological vulnerability and the rapid escalation of threats to their populations indicate an urgent priority to conserve manta rays and their close relatives, mobula rays.
Although already known to be among the slowest to reproduce of all sharks and rays, newer data on manta ray reproduction suggest that they may reproduce even more slowly than previously believed, with a maximum lifetime reproduction potential estimated at only 5 to 15 offspring. Such extremely low reproductive capacity shows that manta and mobula rays are far more vulnerable to exploitation than previously known, and that immediate investment in their conservation is necessary to avoid continued rapid declines.
What is WildAid doing?:
Research conducted by WildAid, our partners, The Manta Trust and others, has uncovered new evidence of a rapidly escalating threat to manta ray species from increased demand for their gill plates, primarily in Guangzhou, China. Fishermen in key range states (e.g. Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Peru, etc.) report sharp declines in catches despite increased fishing effort. Further indication of manta population declines is evidenced by traders reporting increased difficulty in sourcing manta gill plates and prices more than doubling over the previous two years as supply has plummeted.
In 2014, we launched a demand reduction campaign in Guangzhou, China, where an estimated 99% of the market and consumption for manta and mobula gill plates are based. Our goals are to:
- Use existing methodology, networks, and contacts from our China shark fin campaign to raise awareness in China of the impacts of manta gill plate consumption and urgency of manta ray conservation, and measurably reduce demand for gill plates in China, ultimately working towards ending the gill plate trade in Guangzhou.
- Pursue legal protection for manta and mobula rays in key range countries.
- Support implementation of manta and mobula protections through community outreach and enforcement strategies.
In 2015-2016, we will continue to pursue protection campaigns in Peru, Sri Lanka, and other countries where manta rays are targeted by fisheries. We will expand our education and outreach campaign in Guangzhou and conduct activities to build local support for manta and mobula protection and enforce manta protection laws and conservation measures globally.
The Impact Timeline:
- April 2015: Collaborated with Guangdong Fisheries Law Enforcement and WCS to conduct a two-day Capabilities Training Course in Guangzhou, China where 80 front-line customs and enforcement officers learned how to quickly identify illegal manta ray products, as part of an ongoing effort to help officials implement the September 2014 CITES Appendix II listing.
- January 2015: Distributed 137 new manta ray billboards featuring Chinese actor and producer Wu Xiubo throughout the Guangzhou subway system.
- January 2015: Released a public service annoucement with Chinese actor and producer Wu Xiubo.
- September 2014: 100 manta billboards featuring Chinese actor and producer Wu Xiubo are displayed throughout the Guangzhou subway system, with the message "Eating Peng Yu Sai leads to species extinction."
- July 2014: Collaborated with China's Southern TV to air a five-part news magazine show series on mantas and the Peng Yu Sai market.
- June 2014: We release a new report, The Continuing Threat to Manta and Mobula Rays: 2013-2014 Market Surveys, Guangzhou, China, summarizing our market and consumer surveys in conjunction with our manta campaign launch.
- April 2014: Designed and conducted an online survey of 1,000 Guangzhou citizens along with a survey of 100 purchasers of Peng Yu Sai at Guangzhou markets to assess the current level of awareness of manta rays and the threats posed by the gill trade.
Our original, global, and comprehensive research report, Manta Ray of Hope: The Global Threat to Manta and Mobula Rays, and media campaigns resulted in:
- Delegates to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) voted to protect both manta ray species in March 2013. In addition to providing critical data from Manta Ray of Hope investigations to the proposal to include manta rays on CITES Appendix II, the Manta Ray of Hop team supported sponsor countries and helped to win more votes for protecting manta rays through our research, films, and events leading up to and at CITES.
- The Global Economic Impact of Manta Ray Watching Tourism, a peer-reviewed study produced by the MROH team, was published in PlosONE journal. The study demonstrates the high value of mantas as a revenue-attracting tourism resource, capable of providing long-term, sustainable economic benefits to communities in manta range states and justifying manta ray protection.
- Support for implementation of CITES listings for mantas and sharks. In close collaboration with international and national organizations, we are assisting countries with implementation of the new CoP16 CITES listings for manta and shark species. We contributed to supporting documentation and produced a local media campaign, which are making unprecedented progress towards implementing manta ray protection in Indonesia, the country responsible for close to half of manta fisheries worldwide.
How can you help?:
- First and foremost, do not buy any products made from manta and mobula gills.
- Tell your friends and relatives that they may be contributing to the irreversible decline of manta and mobula populations by consuming their gills.