Devil Rays need more protection.  PHOTO: ©Eric SavetskyDevil Rays are distinguished from other rays by their elongated wing-like pectoral fins. These large filter feeders eat low on the food chain, and thus they can be considered as an indicator species keeping the ecosystem healthy.

There are actually nine different species of devil ray. Giant devil ray (Mobula mobular), lesser guinean devil ray (mobula rochebrunei), chilean devil ray (mobula tarapacana), pygmy devil ray (mobula eregoodootenkee), smoothtail mobula (mobula munkiana), bentfin devil ray (mobula thurstoni), spinetail devil ray (mobula japonica), atlantic devil ray (mobula hypostoma), shortfin devil ray (mobula kuhlii).

According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), the giant devil ray is an endangered species, both lesser guinean and chilean devil rays are vulnerable, and the rest of the species are near threatened except atlantic and shortfin devil rays which are not categorized due to lack of data.

Unsustainable, unmonitored and unregulated fisheries have expanded due to the increase of international trade in mobula gill plates, feathery cartilage filaments that the animals use to filter plankton from the water.

Gill plates are the main ingredient of a traditional soup, with ginseng and dried pipefish.

They are also used in traditional Chinese medicinal products, which are purported to treat health issues like asthma, skin rashes, chicken pox, and even cancer.

We’ve seen reports that each ray could result in 3.5 kilos of dried gills, which could be sold for up to $557 per kilo in China.

Why APP. II listing?

The spinetail devil ray and the chilean devil ray have small, highly fragmented populations that are sparsely distributed across tropical and temperate oceans. Global genus-wide declines have been recorded and dramatic local declines observed in the Indo-Pacific over only 10 to 15 years.

The low reproductive rates and the late maturity make the devil rays vulnerable to overexploitation in fisheries which leads to extremely slow recovery from depletion. A females age of maturity is unknown, but the lifespan of spinetail devil ray lies between 15 and 20 years. The gestation lasts approximately one year and only a single pup is born every two to three years.

In addition, recent implementation of the CITES Appendix II listings of manta spp. and national protections in important fishery states have reduced availability of mantas, so it is expected there will be more pressure to capture mobula spp. to meet market demand.

An Appendix II listing for all mentioned rays is necessary in order to ensure that international trade demand does not continue to drive unsustainable fisheries.

–EM

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Article source: IFAW

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