Stopping the Gill Raker Trade

Demand for gill rakers is the largest driver for mobulid fisheries

Photo Credit: Paul Hilton
Stopping the Gill Raker Trade

Shark Savers' Manta Ray of Hope Campaign works to highlight the extent and cruelties of the gill raker trade through film, photographs and sound science.  Our first film Manta Ray of Hope, was the first to expose the growing trade in gill rakers, and since then we have gone on to produce the first comprehensive report on the size and scale of the gill raker trade as well as documents showing the impact on manta and mobula rays.  What we found was particularly worrying.

Historically, subsistence fishing for manta and mobula rays occurred in isolated locations with simple gear, restricting the distance and time fishers could travel to hunt. In recent years, however, fishers have begun targeting manta and mobula rays with modern fishing gear while expanding the fishing range and season.

Each year, about 97,400 mantas and mobulas are caught by fisheries.  Unreported catches from subsistence fisheries and bycatch may mean true numbers are likely much higher.


The emerging market for dried gill rakers is the primary driver of mobulid fisheries. Manta and mobula gill rakers are promoted as a cure for a wide array of ailments from chickenpox to cancer in some Chinese communities. However, shark population declines also have boosted mobulid fisheries: the rays provide a cheap substitute for shark cartilage used in nutritional supplements1,2.

Gill rakers are sold primarily in Chinese markets and directly marketed by importers from the hub of the trade in Guangzhou, Southern China. Guangzhou trade is as much as 99% of the global market. Market analysis yields total annual gill raker trade volume in excess of 61,000 kg with an estimated value of US$11.3 million per year.



Banning the Trade of Manta and Mobulas Parts

Shark Savers' Manta Ray of Hope Campaign works in partnership with our scientific advisors and NGO partners to provide data, research material and public support to pass important laws both nationally and internationally to not only ban the gill raker trade, but ban the trade of all manta parts and encourage the creation of marine sanctuaries.    

Some nations and states have passed laws specifically prohibiting the harvest of manta and mobula rays and protection is afforded in some marine park zones. However, most of these rays migrate through international waters and the international trade in their gill rakers is a primary threat to their survival.

Local and Regional Legal Protection/Conservation Measures*




Australia (Western)


Fishing; harassment prohibited in marine parks


Mobula mobular

Law of the Wild Taxa 2006 Strictly prohibited


Mantas /Mobulas

Ecuador Official Policy 093, 2010

Guam, USA Territory


Bill 44-31 prohibiting sale/trade in ray parts 2011


All elasmobranches

Full ban on fishing elasmobranches 2010

Indonesia – Raja Ampat

Mantas /Mobulas

Regency Bupati Decree October 2010



Exports of all ray products banned 1995


Mobula mobular

Sch. VI Absolute protection


Manta/mobula spp.

NOM-029-PESC-2006 Prohibits harvest and sale

New Zealand

M. birostris, M. japanica

Wildlife Act 1953 Schedule 7A (absolute protection)



FAO 193 1998 Whale Shark and Manta Ray Ban

Revillagigedo Islands


Marine Protected Area

USA – Florida


FL Admin Code 68B-44.008 – no harvest

USA - Flower Garden Banks


US Dept of Commerce 2010

USA – Hawaii


H.B. 366 2009 – no harvest or trade

Yaeyama Islands, Japan


Marine Protected Area

Yap (FSM)


Manta Ray Sanctuary and Protection Act 2008

* The above table is not a complete list of all marine protected areas where mobulids are protected.



1 - Hilton, P. 2011. East Asia Market Investigation. Manta Ray of Hope, 49pp.

2 - Setiasih, N. 2011. Indonesia Fishery Investigation. Manta Ray of Hope, 15 pp.