Would you eat a giant manta ray? Who does? This creature was recently listed under Appendix I and II in the Convention of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. The Convention, also known as CMS, is an international treaty organization, and the listing means member countries are obligated to provide protection for the giant rays and their habitat.
Will this be enough? Well, giant mantas are already protected in several countries, but they don't use maps. That is, these creatures can migrate into unprotected waters and become victims of overfishing. They grow as large as seven meters across, aren't too fast, and tend to gather in specific locations (they're social animals).
The listing is expected to result in coordinated conservation efforts to monitor the species and protect its habitat, according to WildAid, a marine protection group.
Shark Advocates International says: "Manta rays are protected in Hawaii, Maldives, Philippines, Mexico, Ecuador, Yap, Western Australia, and New Zealand, but migrate into unprotected waters of other countries and the high seas.
(The new listing) marks the first international agreement aimed at conserving manta rays and should spark new protections in key Range States such as Mozambique, India, Sri Lanka, and Peru."
Giant mantas and a close cousin, mobula rays, are said by WildAid to be "highly valued in Chinese traditional medicine for their gill rakers ... used for trapping food particles when filter-feeding. Previously targeted by small-scale subsistence fisheries, increasing consumer demand has expanded the gill-raker trade into a global commercial industry."
Giant manta rays (Manta birostris) are considered to be "vulnerable with an elevated risk of extinction," due to fishing pressure and growing international demand. Populations have dropped by as much as 80 percent in some regions since the 1930s.
The video embedded above is from the Manta Ray of Hope project, an effort of WildAid and a group called Shark Savers. The documentary was used in part to help win approval for the listing, which was pushed for by CMS delegates from Ecuador.
That's the power of digital media, friends. It's not just for watching cat videos. Unless, maybe, the cats are endangered.
More on Manta Rays and Endangered Species
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Human Waste Dumped into Oceans Harms Coral, New Study Reveals