Photo credit: Rachel Graham/WCS
From all of us at the Wildlife Conservation Society, thank you for your support of our marine conservation efforts!
Some good news to report: the Government of Indonesia has taken a major step to protect the world’s largest ray species, the giant and reef manta rays. Both are now considered protected species under Indonesian law, with fishing and trade prohibited.
In 2013, the two species were included in the list of species regulated under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). In order to preserve these animals, all 178 CITES countries will have to implement laws and regulations to protect the rays, as well as certain species of sharks. “By fully protecting these fishes, the Government of Indonesia has demonstrated its commitment to these new CITES rules while offering real hope for these species’ future in Indonesia and beyond,” said Dr. Stuart Campbell, Director of WCS’s Indonesian Marine Conservation and Fisheries Program.
Among the world’s largest fishes, manta rays have “wingspans” that can exceed seven meters. They are long-lived, reaching ages of 20-30 years, mature late, and typically give birth to a single pup every two years after a one-year gestation period. They are among the least productive of fishes and, thus, exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing.
Although manta rays have faced pressures from the commercial fishing industry in Indonesia, they are far more important economically to the country’s dive tourism industry. Recent reviews of the tourism value of manta rays have provided irrefutable evidence that these animals are worth far more alive than dead, with a single animal estimated to generate from $100,000 to as much as $1.9 million in dive tourism revenue over its lifetime, as compared with as little as $200 paid for a dead manta at a fish landing site.
“Manta rays are a huge draw for divers seeking out wildlife encounters along Indonesia’s coasts as well as in other parts of the world, such as the Maldives, the Philippines, and Mozambique,” said Dr. Caleb McClennen, Director of WCS’s Marine Program. “We expect that other governments will now follow Indonesia’s lead by capitalizing on the non-extractive value of these fishes and conserving them as a renewable resource for the future.”