Danny Copeland: #loveminimantas

Danny Copeland: #loveminimantas

About the Project

Mobulid rays are a family of fishes consisting of nine species of mobula ray and two species of manta.  Also known as devil rays, mobulids are some of the least undersood and charismatic animals in the oceans.  Yet their populations are in decline.  Fisheries target them for their gill plates to serve a demand in Asia for their use in a medicinal tonic believed to heal various afflictions.  No scientific evidence spports these claims.  Conservation NGOs have combated the trade by highlighting its unsustainability and their superior economic value of mobulid ecotourism.  Efforts began with manta rays, and in 2013 both species were listed on Appendix II of CITES - the only international and legally binding treaty that can be used to control the trade in endangered species.

NGOs and governments have since worked together to implement the new regulations.  However, prior to Danny's project, mobula rays did not possess CITES protection, thus all efforts to supply the persisting demand for mobulid gills have shifted to them.  Mobulas had to gain CITES listing to close the final legal gap that allowed the gill plate trade to continue.  This campaign inspired, engaged and helped inform the ocean-loving community and governmental delegates about the importance of the CITES legislation for the conservation of mobula rays.  Using virtual reality cameras, a 360 degree short film was created to take people on a virtual dive with these charismatic animals that are often out of sight and out of mind.  The film called upon the public to show their support through a petition, and together was used to illustrate to CITES delegates the potential value in mobula ray ecotourism, and the public desire to protect them.  The ultimate goal was to help deliver the final push to secure the legislation this endangered group of rays desperately needs.

About the Grantee

Born and raised in a small, seaside town in North Wales, Danny Copeland has always enjoyed learning about and experiencing the natural world. However it was when he took his first breaths on SCUBA, that he had a particular fondness for life beneath the waves. Now a scuba instructor and Zoology graduate, Danny has dived and worked on marine projects in over 20 countries across all seven continents. Regardless of whether he’s on a rebreather in the rivers of Canada, or freediving in the warm waters of Indonesia, Danny is happiest when spending time underwater. His travels have shown him first-hand how humans are devastating our oceans, and as such Danny’s love for working in the oceans has transformed into a passion to contribute towards their conservation.

Danny also has an underlying passion for multi-media, particularly underwater photography and filmmaking. Since 2012 he has worked as the Media Manager for the Manta Trust, coordinating their media efforts to showcase their work and drive legislative protection for mantas on a regional and international scale.

In 2015, Danny spent a year travelling and diving around the world as an OWUSS European Rolex Scholar. His focus was on developing his understanding of how to reconnect people with the oceans they depend upon. Working alongside industry leaders such as world-leading shark scientists, National Geographic photographers, and BBC underwater cameramen, the scholarship proved to be a formative year in directing the future of Dannys career. His current goals now focus on combining his two passions - to use multi-media to drive tangible conservation action for the benefit of our oceans.

Project Updates and Milestones

Danny and his production team traveled to the Azores for three weeks in mid-August for production.  After returning from the production trip the team diligently edited their footage to create their 360VR video The Mini Mantas of Maria.  In late September the team traveled to South Africa to attend the CITES conference where they showed the film to delegates attending the conference in an effort to gain protection for this ray species.  After watching the video the votes of the delegates came rolling in, and on October 3, 2016 protection was granted for the mobulid rays!  Absolutely amazing work to Danny, his team, and all involved in this fantastic project.

Additionally, in December 2016 Danny was invited as one of 10 Finalists for the "Extreme Virtual Reality Challenge"  at the Ocean Gala in San Francisco, a fundraising event to support ocean conservation.  The VR Challenge sub-competition for VR and 360 Filmmakers wishing to use their creativity to support environmental causes involving the ocean and its related ecosystems.  10 filmmakers presented their VR film to an esteemed panel of judges including Sir Richard Branson and virtual reality pioneer Greg Passmore (PassmoreVR) along with the XTC VR Ambassadors including Chris Crescitelli (Director of the Extreme VR Challenge), Gregg Katano (Unofficial Cardboard), Nitin Gupta (Google) and Ryan Pulliam (Specular Theory).  Of the 10 fantastic finalists Danny was chosen as the recipient of the award, and given a $10,000 prize. Big congratulations to Danny!

A CMG blog thoroughly details additional results from Danny's project which pulls from Danny's Final Report.  The blog describes the trials and tribulations of the project, and eventually it's tremendous success in swaying undecided nations at CoP17 to vote in favor of the protection of the mobulid rays. 

Check out Danny's film below!

Danny also completed 2 Behind the Scenes films of the Mini Mantas for Maria - check out the full version and the abbreviated versions below:

Danny Copeland: Making the Mini Mantas of Maria (Full Film) from Conservation Media Group on Vimeo.

Danny Copeland: Making the Mini Mantas of Maria (Short Film) from Conservation Media Group on Vimeo.