The Giant Manta Ray makes the list at the Convention on Migratory Species

The best outcome for me at this year’s meeting of the Convention for Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), held in Bergen, Norway, was the listing of the giant manta ray into Appendix 1 of the convention.

CMS is an international agreement to protect migrating animals that cross international boundaries. Protected animals are listed on either Appendix 1 or 2 of the convention. The CMS meets only every three years and at the recent meeting it was decided to give the giant manta ray, two raptors and two curlews the highest possible protection--inclusion in Appendix 1.

All 116 members of the agreement are obliged to fully protect the animal species listed in Appendix 1 of the convention. These are animals that are in danger of extinction throughout or in a significant portion of their range.

The giant manta ray became more and more endangered because of increased fishing pressure throughout its range. The animal’s gill rakers are prized for use in traditional Chinese medicine. This fishing pressure was too much for this very slow reproducing species, which births only one pup after a one-year pregnancy.

As a diver, there is hardly anything more fascinating than encountering one of these gentle seven-meter big giants in the sea, so this decision for me was a great conclusion to a long week at the meeting in Bergen.

There were also some important resolutions passed on ocean noise, bycatch and climate change, which included a global work program for cetaceans. However, it took several hours of heated discussionst--mainly between Norway on one side and the UK and Australia on the other side—before reaching an agreement. Each word and each comma was checked twice and only after Norway successfully harpooned any mention of whaling in the document, that the parties reached a compromise.

This is the disadvantage of conventions like this where consensus must be reached. One country is able to veto a good decision or weaken it considerably before accepting it. Although it’s ridiculous not to include whaling in the list of threats in this global program, the resolutions and the global work program are still very important steps forward to help protect cetaceans around the world.

Last, but not least, I want to mention a new product available in Kenya: elephant-friendly honey. This honey is produced in beehives used as fences around agricultural fields and villages to scare off elephants. It’s bees (and not mice) that are one of the few creatures on Earth that can frighten elephants away from coming into conflict with humans. This method to reduce the human-elephant conflict in rural Africa was developed by the researcher Dr. Lucy King who was given the CMS thesis award for this project.

-- RS

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