Ocean News

Weekly Roundup: Mantas, Reef Sharks & MPAs

17th November 2010

On the Conservation Photography blog, SOSF Chief Photographer Thomas P. Peschak and SOSF project leader Guy Stevens have written an illuminating post on manta ray tourism in the Maldives. Mantas are big business on the islands, where tourism is the primary driver of the economy. Recent years have seen an explosion of divers and snorekelers coming to witness the unique and massive (see photo above) feeding aggregations of these animals. With, as Tom and Guy write, "many hundreds of divers" visiting the most popular sites ever day, the pressures being exerted on manta populations are growing.

Thanks in part to Tom and Guy’s work, which culminated in the publication of a story in National Geographic Magazine on Hanifaru Bay, a major manta feeding aggregation site, the Maldives government has taken the important step of declaring the bay a marine reserve, limiting its further unchecked development as a tourist attraction. Unfortunately the marine reserve lacks adequate inforcement as yet, with the government turning down an offer by SOSF to sponsor a patrol boat to police the reserve for 2010 and beyond.

Tom and Guy were on their way to Sri Lanka last week to document the large local manta ray fishery there, which puts the impact of tourism in perspective: uncounted numbers of mantas there are being killed for their gill rakers, in high demand in China, where they are used in traditional medicine – with no proven benefit.

Read Tom & Guy’s full story here, complete with the photographs.

Continuing the subject of marine reserves, SOSF-sponsored podcast Naked Oceans have a new show up this month dedicated to Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the national parks of the seas. With a 2010 target set at the recent meeting fo the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya to protect 10 percent of the oceans as MPAs, this month’s Naked Oceans finds out of we met that target.

As always, Naked Oceans is available on the web as a free download, as well as on iTunes.

Finally, Edd Brooks of the Caribbean Reef Sharks project writes that the 2010 sampling season has drawn to a close after seven months of shark surveying, during which more than 150 sharks from six different species were caught and tagged. One highlight of this season’s work was the surgical implantation of six acoustic tags on mature Caribbean reef sharks, which, given the 10-year lifespan of the tags, will contribute immensely to the data on this species’ movements.