If you reading this, as I was, and wondering what gill rakers are, I will do my best to explain. All fish have gill rakers which are made of hard cartilage and reside on the inside of the fishes gills. These gill rakers protect the fragile gas-exchangers from damage when fish eat.
In manta rays, these rakers are a bit more unique as they have evolved into a tight-knit structure that is used to strain plankton. So, when the mantas are performing their stunning acrobatics in patches of zooplankton, they open their mouths and allow the sea water and plankton to flow over their gill rakers which strain out the micro sized food.
Over the past decade or so, fishermen have caught mantas as they swim near the water’s surface. Once they are captured, their gill rakers are removed and the remains are discarded. The rakers are then sold to local markets as they have been though to help solve minor medical conditions once died, turned into a powder, placed into a packet, and boiled in soup or tea. However, there is no scientific research that supports this.
How can you help?
By supporting organizations such as Project Ocean, MantaTrust, & Manta Ray Of Hope, the overall knowledge of manta rays can be expanded. This knowledge may one day allow us to build international relationships and stop the fishing of mantas for their gill rakers.
The Manta Trust was created to help educate local communities on facts about manta rays, to explain tourism impacts, and ask governments to take action. In addition, they have also started collecting “ID shots“, which are photos taken of the spot pattern on the manta ray’s belly. These spot patterns are unique like fingerprints and can be used to uniquely identify each manta.
- Support you local divers and manta tourism.
- Help build the manta-ID collection by submitting your photos
- Safeguard the habitats that are critical for manta survival
- Educate those around you
- Pass on this material and/or comments.