Indonesia: Raja Ampat curbs diving to protect mantas

Jerry Adiguna The Jakarta Post 22 Apr 16;

Protected species: A snorkeler chases a manta ray in Manta Ridge, Raja Ampat, West Papua.(Courtesy of Conservation International/Shawn Heinrichs)

Raja Ampat regency in West Papua, designated as the first manta ray sanctuary in the world, will impose restrictions on the frequency of visits, especially dives, to improve conservation efforts.

A working group comprising the local administration, local communities, NGOs, academics and marine tourism service providers are currently drafting the details of the restrictions that will be applied in some areas, especially where manta rays are bred and raised.

“Several regions will be declared prohibited areas to maintain the population of manta rays,” said Raja Ampat Tourism Office head Yusdi Lamatenggo during a discussion on Raja Ampat conservation in Jakarta.

Policies formulated by the working group were based on data from Conservation International (CI), which was attained through collaborative research initiatives involving the tagging of manta rays in a number of locations in Indonesia.

Data from the Raja Ampat Tourism Office shows that the frequency of visits, especially to watch the manta rays, is very high, especially when the manta ray migration reaches its peak.

In a single dive, more than 40 divers can be found chasing and watching manta rays up close in a specific area.

With such a high number of divers, said Yusdi, there were fears the manta rays would suffer stress and leave their habitat.

“It is also necessary for tourists to know to not get too close, let alone touch the manta rays and disturb their peace in their favorite spots, such as at Manta Sandy in Raja Ampat,” he said.

Yusdi said they would also prepare strict sanctions against dive operators and marine tourism service providers if they violated the regulation.

“We will revoke their permits if the dive operators and marine tourism service providers remain uncooperative,” said Yusdi.

Known as one of the world’s best diving destinations, Raja Ampat is home to around 75 percent of all known coral species, 1,470 reef fish and, still counting, eight types of whales and seven types of dolphin.

In 2015, the Raja Ampat Tourism Office recorded more than 17,000 tourists visiting the islands.

Every tourist visiting the marine conservation areas in Raja Ampat is required to buy an environmental service card that is good for a year. Indonesian citizens are charged Rp 500,000 (about US$37) for the card; foreign tourists are charged $100.

Proceeds from the card sales are used to boost local revenues and improve the management of conservation areas, community patrols and surveillance.

The government has also made efforts toward manta ray conservation by, for example, including manta ray protection in the 2016-2020 National Action Plan. The government has also banned manta ray fishing under the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministerial Decree No. 4/2014 on the establishment of full protection status for manta rays.

CI Indonesia marine program director Victor Nikijuluw said protecting manta rays from extinction is a challenge for Indonesia.

“A manta ray gives birth to one offspring within a period of between two and five years with a gestation period of about 12 months. Moreover, the threat of population decline is increasing along with the high demand for manta gill plates from China as a main ingredient for traditional medicine,” he said.

According to data released by the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, extensive illegal fishing of manta rays is still taking place from the Tanjung Luar Strait in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, to the Cilacap regency in Central Java.

No comments:

Post a Comment