Some of my Mobula images have been used during this years CITES meeting in Johannesburg.
This 17th meeting of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora is amongst others about conservation issues on various species of sharks and rays at risk.
CITES is the treaty where governments of many countries agree upon the status of animal species (both terrestrial and sea creatures). Upon these agreements measures are to be taken by the countries to protect endangered species from sliding further down the line towards population collapse and extinction. The good news is that during the recent meeting the devil rays (mobulas) species as well as sharks species have been listed to be protected better in the near future. Trade in the species is allowed, but countries have to prove that trade is sustainable, which should be extremely hard for slow reproducing animals like these rays and sharks like silky and thresher sharks.
Above: banner used by MantaTrust on the CITES meeting.
Not many people know that populations of sharks and rays worldwide have dropped drastically in recent years due to targeted and by-catch fisheries. Different species of Devil rays are valued for their gill rakers and sharks for their fins in Asian (bogus medicine) markets. It is great to see that these mobula ray images were selected by MantaTrust that has put maximum effort in researching and protecting populations of ray species.
For us personally, the images brought back great memories of our experience of freediving with these rays in the Philippines in 2010 (mumbles.. what... that long ago already?).
I do remember us asking the boat captain to drop us next to the rays after we had finished our dive looking for thresher sharks (also put on the list for extra protection during this CITES meeting!). What we then thought of as just a bunch of rays enjoying themselves racing around and checking us out, turned out to be a mating train of Mobula Japanica.
Back then we did not know that today the images would find such a great purpose!
Let's hope that governments like that of the Philippines will be able to enforce the needed protection too. That might even be harder than getting these animals on the list for protection...