Giant Manta Ray Conservation

September 15, 2023

Did you know that parts of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) serve as a juvenile nursery for giant manta rays?

This summer, the Texas State Aquarium, NOAA, and the Marine Megafauna Foundation embarked on an expedition that took us far beyond our home state’s shores. We traveled to East and West Flower Garden Banks within FGBNMS to help shed light on the lesser-known aspects of manta ray distribution, especially among the juvenile population. The goal of this expedition was to learn more about manta rays, their movements and habitats. By gathering knowledge, we’re working towards effective conservation strategies that safeguard manta rays and their habitats.

You can help identify and add to Manta Ray data.

  • If you encounter a giant manta ray, please email NOAA at: [email protected].  Report where you saw the manta, how big it was, what condition it was in, and most importantly, include photos or videos. This information will help us learn more about giant manta ray movements and habitat use and can inform recovery efforts for this threatened species.
  • Photos and videos can be particularly helpful. Each manta ray has a unique spot pattern on their belly – much like a human fingerprint – and we can use photos of the belly to identify individuals. You can also contribute to the global manta ray photo-ID database by submitting images directly to

You can help with manta ray conservation!

  • Be responsible when viewing giant manta rays in the wild. Manta rays are curious animals, but please observe them from a safe distance. Do not chase, approach, or touch them. 
  • Reel in fishing lines if you see a manta ray nearby. Accidental hookings cause injuries and can lead to disfigurements and amputations.
  • Reduce marine debris that might entangle or injure giant manta rays by participating in ocean/coastal cleanup efforts, reduce plastic waste, and properly stow trash and fishing gear while boating.
  • Slow down and keep a lookout while boating. Manta rays are at risk of vessel strikes, especially when they are basking or feeding at the surface.

Manta Ray Facts!

  • What do giant manta rays eat?

    Giant manta rays are filter feeders. They feed primarily on zooplanktonic and tiny shrimp. Manta rays are often recognized for their cephalic fins, which help funnel zooplankton into their mouths while feeding.

  • Where do giant manta ray live?

    The giant manta ray lives in temperate, subtropical and tropical oceans around the world. In the eastern United States, they can be found in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean regions. Giant manta rays are sighted nearshore in productive coastal areas and offshore in pelagic waters.

  • How do giant manta rays differ from other rays?

    • The size of the giant manta ray is likely the most distinguishing characteristic.
    • The giant manta ray is the largest ray in the world - reaching wingspans of up to 30 feet - but most individuals range from 13-16.5 ft.
    • The giant manta ray differs from other large rays in their coloring features, as well--they have two white shoulder.
    • Giant manta rays are also harmless and do not have stingers or barbs like some smaller rays (e.g. eagle rays, cownose rays, stingrays).

Next Article

You May Also Be Interested In

  • )">

    Sharks: Myth vs. Fact

    September 18, 2017

    Our longstanding fear of sharks has always been evident in literature, and in countless movies and TV shows – perhaps most prominently in the movie “Jaws” and Discovery Channel’s popular “Shark Week” series. While the media loves to play up ou... Read More