One of the most popular marine creatures among divers manta rays are graceful, majestic creatures. Encountering one underwater as it swoops past while feeding or glides slowly through a cleaning station is a truly awe-inspiring experience.
Their popularity means a single animal can ‘earn’ more than US$ 1 million over its lifetime for local eco dive-tourism. However, despite this fact these gentle giants are fast disappearing from the oceans due to the extreme pressures of fishing.
It is a little known fact that rays are slaughtered for their gill rakers much like sharks are for their fins. These bony projections off the gill arch help mantas and mobula rays to feed by retaining tiny prey. The gill rakers are used by Chinese medicine practitioners as an unproven health tonic and have an estimated market value of US$ 11 million annually, and demand is increasing. However, that amount is a fraction of the value of manta ray diving and snorkelling tourism which is estimated at well over US$ 100 million a year globally.
Most of the general public are unaware of the danger of extinction rays face in some parts of the world but a new report by the Manta Ray of Hope Project, which is a collaboration between Shark Savers and WildAid, has highlighted their plight.
The report entitled “Manta Ray of Hope: The Global Threat to Manta and Mobula Rays” includes the most in-depth research ever carried out into the intensive fishing of mantas and mobulas and the trade in their gill rakers – a trade which could see the collapse of the population in certain seas.
“If action is not taken quickly, manta and mobula rays will likely face regional extinctions because of unregulated fisheries”, said Michael Skoletsky, Executive Director of Shark Savers “Anyone who has gone diving with mantas knows them to be intelligent, graceful, and engaging animals. It would be a tragedy to lose them.” the Manta Ray of Hope Project is now developing a campaign to obtain moratoriums against fishing mantas.
How you can help:
By taking a diving holiday, you can directly contribute to the protection of these creatures and help to educate your fellow tourists and divers. Marine and National parks rely on your entrance fee to fund patrols, monitor marine welfare and enforce no-fishing laws. As a dive tourist you are also sending a powerful message to the local government that manta rays are worth more alive than dead. Your trip can have a positive impact on the local environment and the protection of mantas and mobula rays in the future. What’s more it will be a thrilling and inspiring experience!
Have a look at our scuba diving video gallery for footage of mobula and manta rays.
You can dive with manta and mobula rays at many of our dive destinations including Komodo, Raja Ampat, the Great Barrier Reef, Fiji, the Maldives, Cocos Island, the Galapagos Islands, Thailand, Burma, the Red Sea and Belize.