Reef Manta Ray
Both manta ray species, the Reef Manta Ray, Manta alfredi, and the Giant Manta Ray,Manta birostri, are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species TM . Manta rays occur circumtropically throughout the world’s major oceans, yet within this range populations appear to be sparsely distributed and highly fragmented.
Bycatch and targeted fisheries are cited as a key threat and main cause of population declines. Manta meat is worth little but their gill plates, or prebranchial appendages, have become highly sought after in Asian markets where they are marketed as a medicinal tonic. Recent studies show, however, that manta rays are worth significantly more alive, with the direct economic impact of manta ray tourism valued at over $140 million (US) annually.
Both manta species were granted international level protection under Appendix II of the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The latter becomes effective in September 2014 and means trade in manta products will be significantly restricted and monitored – a vital and critically important step for conserving these species.