Greetings everyone. I've decided to kick off Operation Bleeding Seas II with a blog about the manta ray. First off, allow me to introduce you all to these animals. Manta rays are not your average everyday ray that you might find swimming just offshore. They are not stingrays nor are they electric at all. In fact these rays have no natural defense other than their massive size. These rays are gentle giants and as such have never harmed a human being.
Manta rays have also been quite generous to scuba divers, often times even approaching them to see just what they are.
Incredibly majestic, the manta ray is a favorite among divers and have a most mysterious lifestyle. We know very little about these animals, but there are things we do know. For example. We know that these animals are filter feeders. They glide through the water with their mouths open and sift the water out their gill rakers while trapping any krill or other small creatures inside. We also know that these animals have an incredibly slow reproductive rate. Some manta rays are though to possibly give birth to just one pup every few years, or even one pup in an entire lifetime. You can imagine that these animals must have somewhat of a long lifespan if they have such a slow reproductive rate. Predator wise, the manta ray has very few. Large sharks are known to prey on them as are orcas, but for the most part, the size of the manta keeps any would be predators at bay. Outside of their size, they have no real defense.
Sadly, all species of manta ray are currently threatened with extinction. This has nothing at all to do with there being too many natural predators eating them. No this has everything to do with man. Yes even the gentle manta rays are being driven to extinction by us. The sad thing is, we don't even use these animals as a real food source. You don't here people saying that they are going fishing for mantas to make manta steaks like you here some fishermen say about sharks. It just doesn't happen that way. No, these animals are hunted for a much more disturbing reason. These animals are hunted for one thing. Their gill rakers.
It is the gill rakers that people want. The rest of the manta ray, despite being so large, has very little value. Check out this graphic on just how much manta ray gill rakers are worth.
Yes, you read that correctly, and that chart is accurate. So why in the world are these gill rakers so expensive you ask? The reason is that these gill rakers are being sold as traditional Chinese medicine. Strangely enough, the gill rakers are not a part of traditional Chinese medicine. So they are really being false advertised as a part of that medicine. None the less, people buy into them. They are said to cure many ailments ranging from the chickenpox to cancer. In reality, they have been scientifically proven in none of these claims.
So these gill rakers that are supposed to have this magical curing ability really do nothing at all for human health. Until some solid scientific proof comes out that these animals do have the power to cure anything, I will continue to believe that these animals do not have that power. The fact that these gills are being sold is just a disturbing example of human greed. We are selling these gills for literally no reason. We are once again taking advantage of animals that do not stand a chance against us. So people want to make money off of manta rays? Why not do it in a responsible way? As I mentioned earlier, mantas have never harmed a human, and short of running into them, cant really hurt a human. So why not take advantage of that in a way that wont harm the animal? Why not focus more on manta ray tourism? People all over the world want to have the chance to swim with these animals. I've done it once and it was simply incredible to see one of these animals swimming just under me. I could have reached down and touched it and it would not have cared. Despite probably not even knowing what I am, she showed no fear and way completely content with me being nearby. If you don't think that would bring in more money than selling the gill rakers, I have some facts that may change your mind.
Value of the global manta ray gill raker trade: 11 million dollars USD
Value of global manta ray tourism: 100 million dollars USD
Tourism value of one manta throughout the course of it's life: 1 million dollars USD
Instead of taking advantage of these figures, people are choosing to do this to them. WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES AHEAD!!!!!!!
It's a brutal thing that we are doing to these animals isn't it? An animal that couldn't harm us even if it wanted to and we are literally eliminating it from the world for money. This is not overhunting of a food source. This is straight slaughter of an animal that has zero business in being slaughtered. The demand for gill rakers in on the rise. It needs to be ended before it is too late for these majestic beings. We are not talking about an animal that does nothing for the environment, we are talking about a large filter feeder that helps to keep populations of small organisms in check while maintaining it's own populations through an incredibly slow reproductive rate. The loss of these animals will drastically change the face of the areas they live in. The time to end the gill raker trade has come. Visit www.mantarayofhope to see what you can do to help put an end to this barbaric trade.