Whale sharks and two species of manta rays will receive new protection under the law in Taiwan beginning June 1, increasing penalties for anyone found guilty of disturbing or capturing the three species. Under Taiwan’s Wildlife Conservation Act, whale sharks, giant oceanic manta rays, and reef manta rays will be uplisted from “rare and valuable” to “endangered,” joining four different shark species, including Sawfishes. Taiwan’s Fisheries Act banned whale shark hunting in 2008 and prohibited the capture of the two species of manta rays in 2017. Taiwan’s new protections for whale sharks are crucial as global populations continue to dwindle due to overfishing, bycatch and demand for shark meat, liver oil and fins. Global populations of giant oceanic manta rays and reef manta rays are unknown but their very slow reproductive rates make them especially vulnerable to rapidly depleted populations. Their gill plates are used in health tonics despite evidence of heavy metal contamination, including Arsenic, Cadmium, Mercury, and Lead.
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