Recently protected as a migratory species under Australian law, international communities are picking up momentum to stem the rapid decline of giant manta rays, whose global numbers have dropped by 30%.
Although manta populations are fairly secure in Australia, enhanced protections in Australia’s waters will improve international coordination and cooperation to protect these highly migratory species, necessary components for the survival of this species as outlined by the International Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). Last year CMS Parties listed the giant manta as threatened due to overfishing and growing international consumer demand for manta ray products
Migrating up to 1000 kilometers, most mantas are persecuted when they migrate across unprotected areas where targeted fisheries harvest them for their gill rakers, thin cartilaginous projections used for filter-feeding. Highly prized in Asian markets, gill rakers are dried and used in Chinese medicine to treat a suite of illnesses as well as to boost the immune system.
By prohibiting the take, trade, keep, or moving of giant mantas in Commonwealth waters, Australia also honored requests by WildAid and Virgin Unite, who joined forces earlier this year to urge the Australian government to provide specific protections for giant manta rays. Australia’s new protections will also aid in the monitoring of manta populations, as fishermen are required to report any interactions they have with the species.
Learn more about threats to giant manta rays.