According to Turkish news reports, fishermen caught the rays unexpectedly on 11 March and landed them in Izmir, intending to export the meat to Greece.

Under a 2012 measure adopted by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), landing and selling all shark and ray species listed under a special protocol of the Barcelona Convention is banned. Turkey and Greece are both signatories to the convention and to the GFCM.

Devil rays bear just one pup every one to three years, so are particularly susceptible to overfishing. The giant devil ray (Mobula mobular) of the Mediterranean is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

“We are deeply concerned that this blatant ignorance or disregard of binding measures runs counter to GFCM reports that implementation of the 2012 shark and ray measure has progressed well, including in Turkey and Greece,” said Ali Hood, Conservation Director for the Shark Trust.

“Divers are especially fond of devil and closely-related manta rays, and we have fought hard to win them protections under wildlife treaties,” noted Ania Budziak, Associate Director for Project AWARE.

“We are especially eager to see the CITES listings come into force in the coming weeks, as they are key to preventing devil-ray trade from contributing to further population declines, and could help to remove the incentive to land rays that are caught incidentally in fisheries targeting other species.”

The conservation groups, which also include Shark Advocates International, are also looking to a June GFCM Compliance Meeting and a newly released IUCN Global Conservation Strategy for Devil and Manta Rays as key avenues for addressing policy deficiencies.

This includes adoption of best practices for carefully releasing rays from fishing-nets, as used in the Pacific to boost their chances of surviving accidental capture.

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