If Michel Guerrero could have one superpower, it might be the ability to stop time. Because the owner of PADI® Five Star IDC Exploramar Diving (S – 19927 and S – 22968) – which has certified more than 5,100 divers in its 23-year existence – has precious little free time with all the projects he’s involved in. Since 2008, Guerrero has dedicated his life to the study of oceanic manta rays – even writing a PADI Manta Ray Distinctive Specialty and participating in two international documentaries – in his backyard of Ecuador and the Galapagos. The founder of Fundacion Megafauna Marina del Ecuador (FMME) and Proyecto Mantas Ecuador (PME), Guerrero andhis team contributed valuable scientific information that directly led to manta and mobula rays being protected internationally under CITES (the Convention on International Trade for Endangered Species) Appendix II in 2013.
Why rays and sharks?
They have been a misunderstood species and that’s partially because there isn’t much information about them. People fear sharks (and some rays) due to a lack of knowledge about their behavior; as a result, there is indiscriminate fishing that has caused the drastic decline of their populations.
What exactly does the CITES listing mean for manta rays?
CITES Appendix II is designed to ensure that international trade in a species is strictly regulated to preserve its sustainability, legality and traceability. Listing manta rays in Appendix II is necessary to ensure that international trade doesn’t continue on an unsustainable fishery, which may result in the extinction of these vulnerable animals.
What accomplishment are you proudest of?
That the Ecuadorian government, thanks to scientific research and data we’ve obtained, has fully protected the manta rays in our ocean, that more protected marine areas have been created in my country, that Ecuador has brought proposals to CMS (Convention on Migratory Species) and CITES for their international protection, and that every day we keep learning more about these magnificent animals.
What is your next big challenge?
It’s threefold: getting inclusion in CITES Appendix I for mantas total protection; supporting communities with education to protect and conserve these charismatic giants; continue learning about their behavior, reproduction, ecology, habitats and migratory movements so that they can swim freely in international waters.
Based on an article that appeared in the First Quarter 2021 The Undersea Journal®
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