A Modest Proposal

It has become all-too-apparent of late that certain denizens of the sea, namely sharks, have been receiving disproportionate attention relative to their peers. By many estimates, over 100 million of these cartilaginous fish are killed each year, mostly for their fins.

Thresher sharks, killed for their fins
For too long, sharks have been getting all the attention.

It is not that I object to the mass extermination of ecologically important apex predators per se.

Shark fin soup is, after all, a vital part of Chinese culture and history. Moreover, as any reasonable person knows, consuming shark fin is proven to cure all manner of ills; provide otherwise “ineffective” men with that special “oomph” required in conjugal (and extra-conjugal) activities; and confer exceptional and undeniable social status on otherwise undistinguished persons who, through quirk of circumstance, possess a more substantial ratio of monetary means than good sense or moral propriety.

No...my singular objection is to the plight of certain kin of sharks...specifically, mantas and their smaller brethren mobula rays.

Consider for a moment the fact that these rays have received nowhere near the level of attention that sharks have in recent years.

One doesn’t, after all, visit an exclusive dining establishment to sample an overpriced bowl of chicken broth labelled “manta fin soup”, does one? Neither does one come across canned “manta fin soup” on grocery store shelves, or contend with obstinate parents demanding the serving of “manta fin soup” to mark the joyous nuptials of daughters and sons.

Such is my inherent sense of fair play that I find this imbalanced state of affairs outrageous and entirely unacceptable. The paucity of attention afforded to mantas hardly seems just, particularly in light of the many similarities between sharks and large oceanic rays.

Besides being cartilaginous and living in the sea, both sharks and rays are at the top of their respective food chains, meaning their numbers are inherently sparse. Both often roam great distances, which complicates any effort to track and monitor them.

Both also have long, drawn-out reproductive cycles, characterised by infrequent mating and extended gestation periods, as well as by low numbers of progeny.

Finally, sharks and rays require many years to mature, meaning that populations of both types of fish are susceptible to overhunting.

It is thus, after exhaustive analysis, painstaking deliberation and measured consideration, that I have arrived at a simple conclusion...expeditious action is required to rectify this abhorrent situation.

As such, I hereby present for general consideration the following modest proposal:

  • Whereas the market for shark fins is already well established and highly profitable, but global shark populations are disappearing en masse as a result;
  • Whereas manta ray populations are as-yet relatively unharmed, but have long been underappreciated, existing in the shadow of their close cousins...sharks; and
  • Whereas credulous Chinese (and other Asian) consumers seem forever eager to overpay for miscellaneous parts of rare animals in a never-ending search for elusive magical healing powers and self esteem;

The conclusion is inescapable: The time to exploit mantas is now.

Manta rays killed for gill raker trade
The time to exploit mantas is now!

Please allow me to elaborate.

Sharks have been the centre of attention for many years in no small part because of their fins...their “unique selling proposition” so to speak. People go to great lengths to kill sharks for their fins.

Mantas and mobulas are filter feeders; they use gill rakers (branchy filaments of cartilage) to extract life-giving sustenance from the vast, seemingly empty ocean...almost as if by magic.

It doesn’t, therefore, take an inordinate degree of imagination to recognise the compelling market opportunity represented by this situation: Gill rakers are the perfect “unique selling proposition” for mantas rays, just as fins are for sharks.

If consuming over-boiled, congealed strands of cartilage from the fins of sharks can impart great power and prestige, then it only stands to reason that anyone consuming the cartilage comprising gill rakers would be the beneficiary of unique energy, longevity, wisdom and healing powers that can be imparted only via the transcendental essence of large oceanic rays.

Manta ray gill rakers being cut out
Manta ray gill rakers: the perfect market opportunity

By hunting mantas and mobula rays in great numbers across the world’s oceans in order to harvest their gill rakers for sale at exorbitant prices to gullible Asian consumers...everyone wins:

  • Mantas and mobulas get to bask in the limelight along with sharks;
  • Purveyors of animal parts throughout Asia benefit from a new, remunerative business; and
  • Asian consumers have the opportunity to lavish extravagant sums of money on quixotic potions and elixirs in the name of vanity and superstition.

Genius like this, my friends, is why Homo sapiens rule the planet.
Note: Just in case you haven’t figured out that I’m being ridiculous to illustrate a point...let me just state, for the avoidance of doubt, that I’m being ridiculous to illustrate a point.

Though the scenario above may come across as being ludicrous, it’s actually uncomfortably close to reality.

Mantas are being targeted. There is a burgeoning trade in gill rakers.

Gullible consumers in Asia are paying lots of money for gill rakers. Not satisfied with obliterating sharks, Asian consumers are now on a mission to decimate global manta populations.

Please take some time to familiarise yourself with the facts about the escalating trade in manta ray gill rakers. And if you find yourself in a situation with someone trying to convince you that gill rakers are some magic-hocus-pocus-cure-it-all, please don’t fall for this snake-oil scam.

The links below are a good place to start getting the facts:

Manta Trust
Manta Trust Facebook Page
Manta Ray of Hope Project

Gill rakers, extracted from a mobula ray to cater to gullible consumers
Gill rakers, extracted from a mobula ray to cater to gullible consumers