I will never forget the first time I saw a Manta Ray diving. It was breath-taking, memorising and easily the most beautiful creature i've ever seen. She swam past the group of us quickly and once she reached the front slowed into a gradual glide. Fins flapping like a bird, her enourmous body dominated the entire screen of my mask. And I'll happily admit, i've never felt such an emotional rush of love for something. The overwhelming desire to protect it and the need to see more.
The Actual Manta - Image Courtesy of Jonathon Anderson
In the last few years there has been an alarming increase in Manta hunting around the world, due to Chinese Practioners believing that the consumption of gills reduce toxins in the blood by purifying and cooling it. This in turn reduces body temperature and aids blood circulation. They also believe that these gills boost the body's immune system, and with the recent outbreaks of swine and bird flu creating world wide panic over the last couple of year, these to have further boosted demand.
In Ecuador it is illegal to catch Sharks and Mantas, however if they're accidentally caught in by-catch then their fins and gills can be sold. Over 35% of Ecuadorians live under the poverty line, but for every shark fin sold they get 5$ in return. They 'accidentally' fish for Sharks and Mantas twice a week.
However these are some people who want this to stop. Check out this amazing organisation- Manta Ray of Hope