Newswise — 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.”
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: www.wcs.org; http://www.facebook.com/TheWCS; http://www.youtube.com/user/WCSMedia Follow: @thewcs.
Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium is open every day of the year. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Fall/winter/spring hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., daily. Admission is $9.95 per person; children under 3 years of age are admitted free. Fridays after 4 p.m. in the summer and after 3 p.m. in the fall, admission is by pay-what-you-wish donation. The aquarium is located on Surf Avenue at West 8th Street in Coney Island. The New York Aquarium is located on property owned by the City of New York, and its operation is made possible in part by public funds provided through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. For directions, information on public events and programs, and other aquarium information, call 718-265-FISH or visit our web site at http://www.nyaquarium.com. Now is the perfect time to visit and show support for the WCS New York Aquarium, a beloved part of Brooklyn and all of the City of New York. Due to Hurricane Sandy we are partially opened. Check our website for more information. www.nyaquarium.com.