Ocean News

Help Needed to Save Hawaii’s Mantas

6th February 2009

Posted on behalf of Doug Perrine:
Manta enthusiasts in Hawaii – home of the original Manta Madness night dive, where up to 3 dozen mantas can be seen feeding on plankton attracted by dive lights – say that help is urgently needed to protect the mantas from looming threats. Manta populations in Hawaii are small and localized. They have not been found to travel between islands. Reproductive rates are very low, so it would be very hard to replace any mantas that were removed from a population. Recent inquiries from buyers interested in obtaining manta parts for Chinese traditional medicine, indications of interest by large commercial aquariums in acquiring and displaying mantas, and senseless killings of eagle rays and sharks have locals panicked about the lack of any kind of legal protection for this iconic species in Hawaii. In Kona, only 154 manta rays have been identified in a 17-year study. Every one has a name and a personality, and is recognized when it makes an appearance.

To protect these gentle giants, manta enthusiasts have introduced companion bills in the Hawaii Senate and House of Representatives – SB394 and HB366 respectively. Both bills must survive numerous committee hearings and meet in conference before a law can be passed. Only 1 out of 10 bills makes it to a general vote, so massive public support is needed all along the way to see that the bills are passed out of all the committee hearings. The perilous position of Hawaii’s mantas was underscored when testimony opposing the manta protection bill was received from several persons associated with the commercial aquarium industry.

Hawaii’s manta lovers are begging anyone who cares about these beautiful animals to visit the state legislature web site,www.capitol.hawaii.gov, enter the bill numbers to find their current status, and follow the links to find how to submit testimony. Concerned persons can also sign a petition at www.mantapacific.org.

Doug Perrine