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.
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:
In 2014-2015, we will continue to pursue protection campaigns in Peru, Sri Lanka, and other countries where manta rays are targeted by fisheries. We will conduct education and outreach (including localized media campaigns) and enforcement activities to build local support for manta and mobula protection and enforce manta protection laws and conservation measures globally. We are initially focusing on Indonesia where plans include: outreach, media and events to support manta regulation, including an Indonesia-wide manta research and community engagement project to promote further conservation of manta rays.
The Impact Timeline:
Our original, global, and comprehensive research report, Manta Ray of Hope: The Global Threat to Manta and Mobula Rays, and media campaigns resulted in: