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Manta Ray swimming with net.

Manta killed for its nearly worthless meat.

Free diver with a Giant Pacific Manta.

By helping SeaWatch you can help preserve the future of the Giant Pacific Manta.

SeaWatch Report
Where Have All the Mantas Gone?

With their 18-22 foot wing span, gliding motion, and gentle disposition, giant pacific mantas are one of the truly amazing creatures to watch underwater. Mantas show curiosity and even playfulness around divers – they will come back to find a diver time and again, and float over the diver’s bubbles attempting to get a tummy rub. A few lucky divers have even been able to take rides on the mantas back by holding on to the fins of parasitic remoras.

Twenty years ago, giant pacific mantas could be found around every major reef in the Sea of Cortez. By 1990, mantas had become victims to harpooning and gillnets, and their populations have dwindled to close to nothing. Although traditionally mantas have not been a targeted species, many become tangled in nets intending to catch other species. Once in the nets, the mantas are harpooned and thrown overboard to die. Today because of dwindling populations of sharks and sportsfish, manta ray is now often targeted and served at taco stands.

The Mexican government is slowly becoming aware of the Mantas’s importance to tourism. At the Revillagigedo Islands, one of the only places in the world you are still practically guaranteed a manta encounter, over $2,000,000 is spent each year by tourists wishing to see and photograph these gentle giants.

In June of 1997, because of the influence of El Nino, six mantas entered the Sea of Cortez. For three weeks, divers from all over the world photographed and watched these beautiful one-ton creatures. The La Paz dive operations began to increase their bookings and hoped the mantas would stay for the entire summer. Unfortunately, a local fishing co-op heard about the mantas and targeted and killed three of them. The remaining three left soon after the killing.

In response to this episode and many like this, SeaWatch started a petition to stop the killing and gathered over 3000 signatures. On January 1, 2000, the Mexican government issued the “Mexican Official Standard Rules that Regulate the Shark and Ray Fisheries in Mexican Waters.” This regulation establishes special protection status for the Giant Pacific Manta Ray, making it illegal to capture or kill them in Mexican waters.

However, laws are meaningless without enforcement. Funds and personnel are limited in the enforcement agencies, and consequently manta rays continue to be senselessly killed both by gillnets and targeted for meat.

In the complicated food chain of the ocean, it is difficult to say exactly how the absence of mantas will impact other species. But it is quite clear that tourists will be less likely to come and dive in the Sea of Cortez without the likelihood of an encounter with these amazing creatures.


Individuals can make a difference, if you see a manta ray being killed, take a picture of the fishing boat and note date and place of the killing and report the information to SeaWatch.

Support the Guardianes Del Mar program, which will provide extra sets of eyes and ears to enforce existing laws. It is crucial that fisherman understand that Mexican laws will be enforced.

Help SeaWatch bring attention to the destruction of these gentle giants by joining today.

Finally, encourage your friends not to eat manta ray at local restaurants and taco stands.

Twenty years ago, giant pacific mantas could be found around every major reef in the Sea of Cortez.




Laws are meaningless without enforcement.







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