Good News For Mantas and Marine Conservation Research

Good News For Mantas and Marine Conservation Research

Posted by Michael Starbuck on 21st Feb 2014

Fantastic news today as we have just heard that a new regulation has been signed creating the world's largest manta ray sanctuary for marine conservation research. Encompassing a massive 6 million square kilometres of ocean, this sanctuary will enforce the full protection of Oceanic and Reef Manta Rays in Indonesia – including Raja Ampat, the site of the 'Raja Ampat Diving Project!' The Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Pak Agus Dermawan, signed the agreement in Indonesia's capital Jakarta, and the event was attended by the Ministry of Tourism, national and international NGOs as well as a range of other global media outlets.

Sarah Lewis, an Indonesian Manta Project Leader states:

"Manta rays thrive in Indonesian waters and it is one of the only places in the world where divers and snorkelers can encounter both species at the same time and place. Realising the value of a living manta ray as a sustainable source of income through tourism, Indonesia's forward thinking move to legally protect its manta rays will not only ensure the survival of this vulnerable species but will provide economic benefits for many local communities for generations to come. Coming from one of the world's largest manta fishing nations this news marks a milestone for manta conservation and awareness not just nationally but on a global scale."

Manta rays are regarded as one of the most charismatic and iconic marine species in the world. In recent years manta ecotourism has grown in popularity across their tropical, sub-tropical and temperate range, with underwater ballet provided by these graceful giants often cited as one of the top experiences you can have in the marine environment. A peer-reviewed study led by WildAid, The Manta Trust and Shark Savers recently estimated that manta ecotourism generates USD$140 million in annual revenues globally; and USD$15 million per year in Indonesia alone, making the species vital for many Indonesian communities who rely on ecotourism for their livelihood. However, manta rays are highly threatened by targeted fisheries which annually generate USD$400,000 in comparison.

Although there is clear evidence that stocks are in decline, these fisheries continue to increase their fishing efforts, posing a huge threat to the survival of populations. Manta rays are targeted for their gill plates which are sold as a medicinal tonic on the Asian market. However there is no historical foundation in Traditional Chinese Medicine and no scientifically proven health benefits. Research carried out by WildAid and Manta Trust's Manta Ray of Hope Campaign revealed the growing threat to manta and mobula species due to this growing market and these organisations remain heavily involved in the continued conservation of the species. Both organizations provided critical data and media in support of the 2013 CITES Appendix II listing of both Manta species, including The Manta Trust's mobulid species identification guide.

Guy Stevens, Chief Executive of the Manta Trust commented:

"Manta rays are iconic species, they symbolise what is at stake if we choose not to protect our oceans and their inhabitants for our future generations. The Indonesian Government's decision to legally protect manta rays is a great step along the road to effective conservation of these increasingly vulnerable species. I applaud the government for this positive action and I strongly urge other nations to follow in their footsteps. Indonesia's decision to protect manta rays will not only help the species, it will safeguard nascent manta ray ecotourism to generate many hundred times more revenue and jobs than the destructive gill trade," said WildAid's Executive Director Peter Knights. "We hope other nations will follow their lead."

If you're wanting a chance to see these fantastic creatures in the wild, then why not join 'The Raja Ampat Diving Project'? In association with Aquatic Alliance, here you will be trained to recognize the key characteristics, markings and behaviours of these gentle giants, as well as their ecology, biology and conservation status. Mantas are commonly sighted while out on other dives and have even been known to sneak up on unsuspecting project scientists. For more information on this fantastic project, the location of which is visible in the pictures below, please visit our project page here.

 


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