Manta rays need protection
In the past fishing fleets have not hunted manta rays as aggressively as they are today, the meat is not that tasty and spoils quickly. Plus manta rays damaged expensive fishing nets. But as world fish and shark stocks decline fisherman are turning to rays as the latest species to exploit.
Manta ray flesh is being sold for food to commercial fisheries, mainly for dried fish or animal food. Manta ray gill plates are also harvested for Chinese medicine (as manta stocks decline the price of gill plates increases and the incentive for fisherman to catch mantas also increases). It is the price of these gill plates plus advancements in fishing techniques and equipment that is such a threat to mantas.
Manta ray populations are especially vulnerable because their reproductive cycle is long. They live relatively long lives and give birth to single pups that take a years to reach sexual maturity. Therefore if a manta population is over fished for even a short period of time it is almost impossible for the remaining mature mantas to breed quickly enough to replenish stocks.
Despite manta ray tourism generating millions upon millions of baht in revenue for Thailand there are still no laws protecting mantas in Thai waters. Conservation groups are working to gather more data on manta population sizes and movements. They are also trying to discover the full extent of the manta fisheries industry in Thailand. The aim is to achieve national protection for manta rays through laws which are effectively enforced.
Want to see manta rays in their natural environment? We recommend a liveaboard that includes Koh Bon and Koh Tachai in it’s itinerary.