Manta rays are the largest rays in the world, with the oceanic species growing up to a massive 9m from one wing tip to the other! Mantas are amazing creatures to dive with and I was completely mesmerised by the beautiful black female that was leading two males around a coral bommie in a mating ritual off Lady Elliot Island in the image below.
These graceful giants are heavily targeted for fisheries in various parts of the world, particularly south-east Asia. This has led to significant population declines in many regions which is having a huge impact on the numbers of these beautiful creatures. Both Manta alfredi and Manta birostris are now listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List for Threatened Species.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society has partnered with Project Manta at the University of Queensland, a national research initiative that studies the biology and conservation of both manta ray species around Australia. Oceanic Manta Rays are protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) in Australia and through further research, hopefully the Reef Manta Rays will also receive protection within our waters.