Sympathy for the devil: a conservation strategy for devil and manta rays
Background. Increased interest in luxury products and Traditional Chinese Medicine, associated with economic growth in China, has been linked to depletion of both terrestrial and marine wildlife. Among the most rapidly emerging concerns with respect to these markets is the relatively new demand for gill plates, or Peng Yu Sai ("Fish Gills"), from devil and manta rays (subfamily Mobulinae). The high value of gill plates drives international trade supplied by largely unmonitored and unregulated
... catch and target fisheries around the world. Devil and manta rays are especially sensitive to overexploitation because of their exceptionally low productivity (maximum intrinsic rate of population increase). Scientific research, conservation campaigns, as well as international and national protections that restrict fishing or trade have increased in recent years. Many key protections, however, apply only to manta rays. Methods. We review the state of the development of scientific knowledge and capacity for these species, and summarise the geographic ranges, fisheries and national and international protections for these species. We use a conservation planning approach to develop the Global Devil and Manta Ray Conservation Strategy, specifying a vision, goals, objectives, and actions to advance the conservation of both devil and manta rays. Results and Discussion. Generally, there is greater scientific attention and conservation focused on Manta compared to Devil Rays. We discuss how the successes in manta ray conservation can be expanded to benefit devil rays. We also examine solutions for the two leading threats to both devil and manta rays – bycatch and target fisheries. First, we examine how can the impact of bycatch fisheries can be reduced through international measures and best-practice handling techniques. Second, we examine the role that responsible trade and demand can play in reducing target fisheries for gill plates. Our paper suggests that given similarities in sensitivity and appearance, particularly of the dried gill plate product, conservation measures may need to be harmonised particularly for the larger species in this subfamily.