Mantas are getting a big boost from one of China’s most popular actors, Wu Xiubo, with the release of a new manta protection PSA.

Video: Wu Xiubo Manta Ray PSA

The PSA was produced by WildAid and announced by Wu Xiubo at a press conference in Guangzhou.

Manta rays and mobula rays are increasingly under threat from overfishing and are listed under CITES Appendix II. Guangzhou is the center of the trade in Peng Yu Sai, a product made from manta ray gill rakers. As many as 150,000 mantas and mobulas are killed each year to supply the city’s markets.

Wu Xiubo, speaking at the event explained, “[T]he backdrop of this PSA is in Guangzhou, a city that prides itself on cuisine. I hope that this PSA helps everyone learn that much of this cuisine we enjoy in Guangzhou comes at a great price to the animals that supply it. Mantas are now an endangered species, and I truly hope that our selfish desires do not lead to their extinction. I’m honored to be an ambassador for WildAid to help protect mantas and other wildlife, and I hope we can all work together to save these beautiful creatures.”

The gill rakers are made of cartilage and are served in China in a soup as a health tonic despite not being part of formal traditional Chinese medicine. Toxicology tests show that gill plates contained 20x the concentration of arsenic considered permissible by the Pharmacopoeia of China, more than three times the amount of cadmium. Mercury and lead were also found to be present.

According to WildAid’s 2014 report, The Continuing Threat to Manta and Mobula Rays, more than half of consumers surveyed were unaware that gill plates came from mantas; only 6% were aware of manta rays’ threatened status; and 99% were unaware that heavy metals are found in the product.

These same surveys showed that when given new information, consumers are willing to change their buying habits: 97% of consumers would purchase or consume less given knowledge of heavy metals in the product, and 91% of respondents expressed a willingness to reduce or stop consumption of Peng Yu Sai in support of wildlife protections.

“WildAid began our media campaigns in Guangzhou in early 2014 with the help of our media partners such as Southern TV and celebrity ambassador Wu Xiubo. Our recent small-scale surveys show that there might be a leveling off in the consumption of Peng Yu Sai, and even steep declines in several locations. We are going to increase our efforts in 2015 to build more awareness in the public that consuming Peng Yu Sai not only has health risks from heavy metals, but is also threatening this magnificent species.” said Executive Director Peter Knights at the press conference.

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