Friday, April 1, 2011

Huge rise in ray hunting threatens ocean's 'gentle giants'

They are known as the ocean's gentle giants, but an alarming rise in manta and mobula ray hunting could threaten the very existence of the species.

From India to Ecuador, manta and mobula fishing has become big business for fisheries who are selling their gills to be used in soups and traditional Chinese medicine.

Conservationists have warned that demand could soon rival that of the controversial shark fin trade.

The rays are pulled from the ocean, either with fine gill nets or spears, and slaughtered to meet growing demand, mainly from the Chinese market.

Chinese practitioners believe the consumption of gills helps reduce toxins in the blood by purifying and cooling it, reducing body temperature and aiding blood circulation.

A belief that these gills boost the body's immune system, especially when swine and bird flu make daily headlines, has further boosted demand.

One kilogram of gill rakers from a mature Indonesian manta sells for up to $200 in the dried seafood markets of China.

Manta and mobula hunting has become big business because they are easy to catch.

But conservationists are concerned that because of overfishing the rays might be facing extinction before scientists are able to fully uncover all of the mysteries they hold. (read more)