Friday, 4 November 2011

Giant Mantas in Peru

Migration is an eco-sexy word. You might be studying something altogether beautiful and inspiring in shape and form, but if you can say that is migrates as well, wow! That is really something. Think of those poor people studying elephants, they can only say that in the good old days before human population explosion and the great white hunter, that their subjects 'used to migrate'. Now elephant gurus have to deal with the fact that their subjects will most probably be retained behind the same piece of park boundary for all eternity, or at least until either a.) the elephant gets angry and breaks out, or b.) an angry poacher breaks in and the elephant gets shot. All joking aside, the best migrations are happening in the ocean, with many megafauna species migrating vast tracts of open ocean, in some cases such as certain whale species, the great white, the basking shark, these big guys can migrate half way around the planet. That is amazing! Whilst it might be considered that such a trait can render a species indelible in the public minds eye, migration also presents those charged with studying them a few problems. If it can be ascertained that saving a species in one country is beneficial, there are examples out there of real and very valuable conservation initiatives making changes on the legislative slate. However, if the species, so protected in once country, migrates, then it is only protected whilst it is within the boundaries of that country. Once it is outside, on the way to wherever it goes, it is as at risk as if never protected. The only real way to protect such migratory species are via international treaties such as CITES listing, or listing on a CMS appendicies as I beleive is going to happen with Manta birostris this month at the CMS COP in Bergen, Norway. With the mantas I am involved with in the Pacific, sits a perfect example. Protected in Ecuador since 2010 after an explosion in mobula take inspired a local reaction and pressure upon the government into prompt action, mantas are without protection in the neighbouring country of Peru. On a recent visit there, I saw first hand incidence of multiple mobula catches, and met face to face a fisherman that claims to be taking over 100 giant manta rays per season. The guy in the top image was out taxi driver on one day, who decided to buy a mobula wing for his lunch. Mobula and mantas all go for local trade within Peru, sold for a regional dish known as chinquirito. It is a type of dried ceviche dish of which ray wings are a sought after, primary ingredient. My aim for the next few years will be to see how I might help the local parties within Peru to bring about a change in attitude towards mantas and mobulas, so that these migratory species can continue their inspiring existence for many years to come.

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