The largest threat to the two species of manta ray, the giant manta and the reef manta, is the destruction of their habitat due to pollution and fishing, whether incidental or directed. While in some countries fishing for mantas has been banned and export bans are also in place, mantas are sought after by fishermen for their gill rakers, which are in high demand in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). More acidic oceans are also reducing the availability of plankton, the food source of these giant filter feeders.
There are a number of places famed for offering encounters with these winged wonders, including Hawaii, Mexico, Indonesia, and the Maldives. One of the world’s bucket-list dives happens at night in the shallow waters off the Hawaiian resort town of Kona, when the mantas are drawn in by the plankton attracted to snorkellers’ and divers’ lights.