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Manta rays in big trouble

High fishing pressure due to increased demand for mobulid ray gills results in a large number of manta and mobula being landed on a daily basis at Sri Lankan and Indian fish markets. Decreasing catches of the more desired catch species like sharks, tunas and billfishes is also adding to the problem as the fishermen begin to target, with increasing regularity, these previously economically unviable rays. The extremely low fecundity rates, slow growth and late maturity of these species make them even more susceptible to over-fishing. Identification of key mobulid aggregation sites will further help protect these species and provide a deeper insight into their mysterious lives.

Demand for gill rakers is the largest driver for manta and mobula ray fisheries. Anecdotes gathered through investigations and literature searches suggest that gill rakers, which consist of thin filaments that manta and mobula rays use to filter food from the water column, can treat health issues ranging from chicken pox to cancer. Some practitioners claim that gill rakers, known in China as “Peng Yu Sai,” boost the immune system and help purify the body by reducing toxins and fever and enhancing blood circulation. Others claim that gill rakers will remedy throat and skin ailments, male kidney issues, and help couples with fertility problems (source: Shark Savers, see link below). None of this has been scientifically proven…

Photographer Kees Slot visited  a Sri Lanka fish market in Negombo and sent us these pictures. We have sent them to several organisations which focus on manta rays.

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