The Indonesian government has ceeated the world’s largest manta ray sanctuary , declaring it all 5.8 million square kilometers of ocean surrounding its entire Archipelago as a protected zone for the gentle giants. This new law is not only a major step forward in worldwide efforts to protect the species, (which were added to the list of species regulated under of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in 2013), it is also a boon to the country’s tourism.
In fact, it is estimated that “Manta watching tourism is worth an estimated $15 million to Indonesia’s economy every year,” noted Andrew Harveym director of MantaWatch, a not-for-profit marine conservation company based in London, England, which actively works to protect threatened manta rays in Indonesia by “applying technologies and education to support local conservation actions.”
The chance to see a manta ray draws divers and snorkelers from around the world,” he added. “I applaud the Governments visionary leadership, this is a great example of how governments and the diving industry can work together to achieve positive impacts for the environment and the economy.”
Manta rays also attract divers along the coasts of the Philipines, Mozambique and the Maldives, and it is now hoped that theses governments will soon follow Indonesia’s example in protecting the species further,” stated Dr. Caleb McClennen, Director of the World Conservation Society’s Marine Program.
“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 over-fishing,” added 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 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
Manta rays are among the world’s largest fish with “wingspans” that can exceed 21-feet wide.It is also said that they have “one of the highest brain-to-body ratios of all living fishes,” and a relatively long lifespan of approximately 20-30 years.” However, they are slow to mature, and once they do, they only produce one off-spring once every two-years (after a gestation period of 12 months).