More protection in sight for Manta Rays in Caribbean area

Photo: Oceanic Manta Ray in Aruba. Photo credit: Danielle de Kool 

KRALENDIJK – There is hope for more protection of manta rays in the Caribbean.

Manta rays are threatened by various human activities. At the next meeting of the Conference of Parties for the Cartagena Convention (COPS) later this year in Aruba, the possibility of better protecting the manta rays in the Caribbean will be discussed.

The Caribbean is home to two species of manta rays, the Giant Manta Rays (Mobula birostris) and Caribbean Manta Rays (Mobula cf. birostris – which will most likely be officially described in the coming years), as well as several species of devil rays. Manta rays are the largest species of rays. They pose no danger to humans.

Manta rays are filter feeders, taking microscopic food (plankton) including fish larvae, krill, shrimp and planktonic crabs from the water column and filtering them through their gill plates. They play a vital role in keeping the oceans healthy by regulating plankton levels. By moving between the surface ocean, the deep sea and coral reefs, they also create a valuable ecological connection by transporting nutrients.


Manta rays are threatened by various human activities. One of the biggest threats to these animals worldwide is overfishing, as they are often targeted for their gill plates, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. In addition, they are also threatened by bycatch, entanglement (in fishing nets and fishing lines, for example), habitat loss and pollution. Bycatch and entanglement are probably the two biggest threats in the Caribbean.

The manta rays are the largest species of rays, they live a long time (30-50 years) and reproduce slowly. The age at which giant manta rays can first reproduce is estimated to be around 9-12 years old and manta rays only give birth to one pup at a time. The slow life cycle and slow reproduction make manta rays extremely vulnerable to extinction.


In the Dutch Caribbean, marine protected areas such as the Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary help protect mantas and devil rays. The species is also on several regional and international lists, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the International Shark Strategy adopted by the Dutch government (2019 ).

In addition, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, together with the Republic of France, has formally submitted a proposal to include the manta rays in Appendix II of the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) Protocol, a regional agreement for the protection and sustainable use of coastal and marine biodiversity in the wider Caribbean region. If approved at the next Conference of Parties for the Cartagena Convention (COPS) in Aruba this year, this measure will provide a legal framework for the highest level of protection for manta rays conservation.

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