Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Giant manta ray to receive protection

Media release
20 October 2012

Environment Minister Tony Burke has announced that a majestic giant of the sea, the giant manta ray, is now protected under national environment law.

The giant manta ray which has a wingspan of up to 6.5 metres and can weigh up to 1400kg - is now listed as a Migratory Species under Australia's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Mr Burke said while giant manta ray populations are believed to be fairly secure in Australia, they have declined by more than 30 per cent internationally.

"The giant manta ray is a highly migratory species - with some being known to travel more than 1000 kilometres - and threats often arise outside of protected areas," Mr Burke said.

"For this reason, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species and our national environment law are an excellent way to achieve international cooperation and coordination to better protect the species.

"The major threat to manta rays internationally is overexploitation. The species has a high value in international trade, and fisheries exist overseas that target it at unsustainable levels. The species can also end up as by-catch.

"However, the giant manta ray is not targeted commercially or recreationally here, and is rarely reported as by-catch in Australian waters."

Mr Burke said the listing ensures that it is now an offence to take, trade, keep, or move the species in Commonwealth waters.

"If a commercial or recreational fisher interacts with a giant manta ray in Commonwealth waters, they will be required to report the incident, as is currently the case with all protected species listed under the Act such as dugongs, whale sharks and a number of species of whales and turtles," he said.

The giant manta ray is found in tropical, sub-tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and is common in tropical waters of Australia.

The protection measure follows the giant manta ray's inclusion as a threatened migratory species on an appendix of the international multilateral environment agreement, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species.

The Convention seeks to conserve terrestrial, avian and marine species that migrate across or outside national jurisdictional boundaries. Parties to the Convention must protect migratory species listed on its appendices that live within, or pass through, their jurisdiction.