They are magnificent creatures and anyone lucky enough to have dived with manta rays can confirm this: they are very inquisitive too! They don’t have a stinging barb, so no chance of you getting ‘speared’ either. If you haven’t spotted them yet, you better try quick though, because manta ray populations have declined by as much as 80% in several regions over the last 75 years and by more than 30% worldwide.
Did you know manta rays are part of the shark family? Here are some other quick facts about these graceful marine creatures:
- How big do they get?
- What do they eat?
- Where can they be spotted?
- When to go?
The most recent estimation is that the worldwide value of manta-based tourism and filming is US$100 million per year. But this is not what is threatening them. Manta rays are under increasing threat from Asian demand for their gill rakers, which are used in Chinese medicine. So: fishermen actually target manta rays, as incredible as it sounds. And to do so is easy: they are huge, approach the surface often, they move slowly, and are very predictable. Some sub-populations now count just a few hundred individuals. At some locations manta rays are already depleted.
Manta rays are not currently protected by any fisheries legislation in Australia. The International Union for Conservation of Nature Shark Specialist Group, based in Canada, has added the Giant and Reef manta rays to its Red List of Threatened Species last month, an upgrade from the list of nearly-threatened species.
HAVE YOU EVER SEEN MANTA RAYS UNDERWATER? Tell us about your encounter below and/or post your photos on our Facebook wall!