|Local group expands efforts to save manta rays
Santa Cruz-based organization, The
Manta Network, is expanding its efforts to collect manta sightings from around
the world. The data collected will assist researchers to identify migration patterns
of manta rays and the size of the manta population worldwide.
Founded in 1996, The Manta Network is dedicated to protecting Manta birostris
populations. Director Robert Aston is a Sierra Club member, underwater photographer
and journalist who holds Masters degrees in chemistry and earth sciences.
Manta rays are found in every tropical ocean. Although often confused with other
members of the family Mobulidae, the Great Manta (Manta birostris) stands apart
as the largest of all rays with wingspans of up to 22 feet.
The Pacific Manta Ray is a combination of great size and gentle grace,
explained Bob Rubin, Ph.D. Changes in fishing practices are exerting increased
pressures on the manta population. More information is critically needed on the
impact of manta takes and whether manta populations will be able to withstand
existing pressures. There is a delicate balance between the economic well-being
of small fishing villages, the demand for traditional Chinese medicines and the
need to protect manta populations for ecosystem health. Helping local groups protect
ecosystems frequented by mantas for tourism may be one solution.
The Manta Network is recruiting members of the dive industry around the world
to provide more frequent and structured sightings data. Activities will also identify
and track manta ray conservation efforts worldwide. Collection of sightings information
on a worldwide-basis will help researchers to identify strategically important
areas and changes in manta populations. In addition, the organization is raising
funds to support field research. For more information contact Robert Aston, Director,
The Manta Network at firstname.lastname@example.org