S.E.A. Aquarium and Conservation International embarked on a project which aimed to tag 30 manta rays using Fastlock Global Positioning System (GPS) based tags over a 12 month period.
The project, launched in September 2014, will see the teams make their way across Indonesia to locate manta populations in areas such as Bali, Raja Ampat, Berau, and Komodo. We have updates from the study.
A GPS system, just like the systems commonly used in phones or in cars, provides location and time information near real time. The data we receive once attached to a manta can show movement and migration patterns through the ocean. The more we understand the lives of manta rays, the more we can do to protect them.
Reef manta rays (Manta alfredi) and Oceanic manta rays (Manta birostris) travel to different areas as they follow their food source or have the urge to reproduce. The concern is that manta rays are migrating across hunting grounds which put them in danger.
The ray’s feathery gill plates, which they use to filter food from the water, fetch high prices in Chinese markets, particularly Guangzhou province. Manta rays can also get entangled in fishing gear which can cause serious injury.
Our tagging programme took place in Indonesia as it had the largest Manta Ray population in Asia, and also some of the largest manta ray fisheries. Furthermore in 2014, the Indonesian Government declared the Manta Ray as a protected species, and banned the hunting and trading of manta rays throughout the country.
The information collected from the tags will be shared with the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, through CI, to help the Indonesian government better develop conservation policies for the manta rays.
Manta rays have been classified as Vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species since 2010. The IUCN Red List evaluates the risk of extinction of plants and animal species and plays an important role in guiding conservation actions at regional and international levels. The species has also recently been added to Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). At this level of international protection the trade of manta rays is now being controlled to ensure that populations are not reduced to a level that threatens their long-term survival as a species.
To learn more about the work on Manta Rays in Indonesia, please read the blog post Indonesia Gives Mantas A New ‘Ray of Hope’ from CI.