Chinese Traditional Medicine, CITES, data-poor fisheries, life history invariant., wildlife trade, Euler-Lotka, Population growth rate, accounting for unvertainty, von Bertalanffy growth function, ocean ivory
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The directed harvest and global trade in the gill plates of mantas, and other mobulid rays, has led to increased fishing pressure and steep population declines in some locations. The slow life history, particularly of the manta rays, is cited as a key reason why such species have little capacity to withstand directed fisheries. Here, we place their life history and demography in the context of other sharks and rays. Despite the limited availability of data, we use life history theory and comparative analysis to develop plausible ranges of somatic growth rate, annual pup production and age at maturity to estimate risk of extinction (maximum intrinsic rate of population increase rmax) using a variant of the classic Euler-Lotka model. Manta ray rmax is most sensitive to the length of the reproductive cycle, and the median rmax of 0.11 year-1(CI: 0.089-0.137) is one of the lowest known of the 106 sharks and rays for which we have comparable demographic information. In common with other unprotected, unmanaged, high-value large-bodied species with low or very low productivity, manta rays are unlikely to sustain unmonitored, unregulated exploitation and may face increasing local and regional extinction risk.