Protected Resources

Manta Rays

Left: Reef manta (Manta alfredi) - illustration by Lydie Couterier; Right: Giant manta ray (Manta birostris) - CSIRO National Fish Collection
Left: Reef manta (Manta alfredi) - illustration by Lydie Couterier; Right: Giant manta ray (Manta birostris) - CSIRO National Fish Collection

Current Management Issues

On January 22, 2018 we published a final rule to list the giant manta ray (Manta birostris) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (83 FR 2916). After completing a comprehensive status review, and after taking into account efforts being made to protect these species, we determined that the giant manta ray is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout a significant portion of its range. Therefore, we have listed the giant manta ray as a threatened species under the ESA.

At this time, we conclude that critical habitat is not determinable because data sufficient to perform the required analyses are lacking; however, we solicit information on habitat features and areas in U.S. waters that may meet the definition of critical habitat for the giant manta ray.

Background

On November 10, 2015, we received a petition from Defenders of Wildlife to list the giant manta ray, reef manta ray (Manta alfredi), and the Caribbean manta ray (Manta c.f. birostris), range-wide or, in the alternative, any identified Distinct Population Segments (DPSs), as threatened or endangered under the ESA. The petitioners also requested that we designate critical habitat concurrent with a final listing.

On February 23, 2016, we made a positive 90-day finding (81 FR 8874), determining that the petitioned action to list the giant manta ray and the reef manta ray under the ESA may be warranted. A comprehensive status review was conducted to inform the 12-month finding. We also made a negative 90-day finding that substantial information was not presented to indicate that the Caribbean manta ray is a taxonomically valid species or subspecies for listing, and, therefore did not warrant listing at this time.

On April 25, 2016, we received a petition from Dr. Mark Deakos to list two DPSs of reef manta rays in Hawaii as threatened species under the ESA: the Maui reef manta ray and the Kona reef manta ray.

On June 28, 2016, we announced a negative 90-day finding (81 FR 41958) on the petition to list two DPSs of reef manta rays in Hawaii as threatened species under the ESA. We found that the petition and information in our files did not present substantial information indicating that either the Maui or Kona reef manta ray population qualified as a DPS under the ESA. As such, we found that the petition did not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the Maui or Kona reef manta ray populations are “species” eligible for listing under the ESA. However, we continued conducting a global status review of the reef manta ray (as well as the giant manta ray).

On January 12, 2017, we published a proposed rule to list the giant manta ray as a threatened species under the ESA (82 FR 3694). A 60-day public comment period on the proposal to list the giant manta ray under the ESA was open until March 13, 2017. We also announced that the reef manta ray did not warrant listing at that time.

Key Documents

Please visit the NOAA Fisheries manta ray species page for more information.