Indonesia Protects Manta Rays
WCS commends Indonesian Government for adopting new law prohibiting fishing and trade of manta rays
NEW YORK (February 19, 2014)—The Wildlife Conservation Society applauds the Government of Indonesia for its recent decision to protect the world’s largest ray species, the giant and reef manta rays, from fishing and trade throughout the country.
On 28 January 2014, Indonesia’s Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Minister declared both the giant manta ray and reef manta ray as protected species under Indonesian law. This new law represents a major advancement in efforts to conserve manta rays, which in 2013 were added to the list of species regulated under of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). As of September 2014, all 178 CITES member countries will need to control trade and implement other CITES trade rules for these and several heavily traded shark species so as to ensure that international trade is not a threat to their survival.
“The listing of oceanic and reef manta rays on CITES last year was a great first step towards mitigating the threat to these magnificent animals from overfishing,” said Dr. Stuart Campbell, Director of WCS’s Indonesian Marine Conservation and Fisheries Program. “But far more needs to be done, particularly at the country level, to reduce this fishing pressure. 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.
Among the world’s largest fishes, manta rays have “wingspans” that can exceed seven meters. They also have one of the highest brain-to-body ratios of all living fishes. They are long-lived, reaching ages of 20-30 years, mature late, and give birth to generally a single pup every two years after a gestation period of one year. They are among the least productive of fishes and, thus, exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing. International market demand for these fishes’ gill rakers (minute, finger-like structures that enable rays to filter zooplankton from water), which are traded for use in an increasingly popular Asian health tonic, has driven dramatic increases in largely unregulated fisheries for manta rays, and depleted their numbers at numerous sites. Both species are classified as Vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Although mantas have been commercially fished in Indonesia, they are far more important economically in 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.”
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