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December 1, 2011

Giant Manta Rays Gain International Protection for the First Time

Humane Society International

  • A giant manta ray tangled in rope. Dale Galvin/Marine Photobank

Giant manta rays are a magnificent sight. They "fly" through the water by moving their wing-like fins, which can grow to be more than 20 feet across. Giant manta rays prefer warmer waters close to land, but travel around the globe in search of their primary food source: plankton.

Facing many threats

These massive, yet graceful gentle giants are not afraid of humans, but they should be. Giant manta rays are fished for food and shark bait, killed mistakenly by fisheries targeting other species, and increasingly hunted for their gill rakers, which are used in a relatively new Chinese medicine product. Fortunately, these animals are already protected in the waters of several countries; however, no regional or international protection measures were in place for giant manta rays on the high seas—until now.

Hope for the future

The 10th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS was held in Bergen, Norway in November 2011. Humane Society International was there to advocate for stronger protections for manta rays and other animals.

At the meeting, member countries adopted a proposal submitted by the government of Ecuador to protect these rays and their habitat. A proposal for increased cooperation on regional efforts in the waters that giant manta rays migrate through was also adopted. These protections will also benefit communities around the world that depend on the growing manta ray eco-tourism industry.

Also added to the list of migratory species protected by the Convention were the saker and red-footed falcons, the far-eastern and bristle-thighed curlews, the argoli sheep, and the bobolink. Resolutions were adopted to increase protection for migratory aquatic animals from gillnet fisheries, underwater noise, marine debris, and climate change. A work plan for cetaceans was also finalized and adopted.

More information

Summary highlights of the CMS meeting can be found here, with the final meeting report here.


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