Save the Mantas - World's Largest Winged Creatures
Manta Being Hunted for their Gills
In Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Japan and the Philippines mass fisheries seriously threaten manta and mobula ray populations. New demand from Asia for dried gill rakers used in traditional medicines has dramatically increased the Indonesian fisheries, threatening the local populations. The gills are used interchangeably in Chinese medicine and according to Chinese practitioners, gill rakers help to clear away heat and toxic material from the body and aid blood circulation. On the street in Southern China prices vary according to size and manta gills can sell for $100.00 USD per pound.
Paul Hilton is a photojournalist working on manta and mobula ray research in China, He is collecting gill raker samples for DNA testing that are used in Chinese medicine. You can follow his work from his website: Paul Hilton Photography [email]
Ticao Manta Conservation, Philippines
Ticao Island conservation work with manta rays dates back to the early 2000's when a local group called the Blue Zoo worked with Save-the-Mantas.org to develop posters that were displayed in the ports and fish markets to persuade fisherman to not kill the rays. The poster were very effective and led directly to today’s protection of manta rays and whale sharks in many of the areas of the Philippines.
In 2002, Rico Calleja, a local dive instructor, heard stories from local fishermen about a large number of mantas in an area off Ticao island. This information helped him pinpoint the location of a manta cleaning station. After operating a dive shop in Donsol he later established a conservation station that would become Ticao Island Resort. Marvin Mondrano, Abel Bahillo and others recorded frequent manta sightings at the cleaning station which was named the Manta Bowl. This area has become a very popular dive destination. The resident manta population has been studied with 30-40 individuals identified. The Manta Bowl cleaning station is an ideal location to record sightings over a long period of time and is useful in distinguishing the resident population from the pelagic (migratory) animals.
More recent research by Yotam Barr, a marine biologist from the University of Tel Aviv and ongoing work by LAMAVE (Large Marine Vertebrates NGO) suggests that mantas frequent the area all year for the purpose of getting cleaned by small fish. Even though the area is protected, manta rays still get caught up in fishing nets. Through the assistance of Mondrano and other local divers, as many as five manta rays are cut free of monofilament fishing lines each year.
Manta Cleaning Station Research
We are seeking sponsors to help fund the deployment of underwater IP cameras at manta cleaning stations around the world. The MantaCam is manufactured by Ocean Presence Technologies and allows for research into manta behavior. This live camera can be controlled by researchers from anywhere in the world and will make possible live educational events over the Internet. If you would like to help sponsor this important conservation work, please contact: Robert Aston.