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Manta Rays and Sharks Receive International Protection

Delegates to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) have taken the significant step of voting to protect two manta ray and five shark species at the 16th Conference of the Parties in Bangkok, Thailand this past week. Sharks have been heavily targeted for their fins and mantas for their gills, despite the species’ proven value to ocean ecosystem health and to global ecotourism.


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.