Tags: Diving,  Economics,  Ray Conservation 

Diving with Rays

Manta and mobula rays are highly intelligent and social animals that have a broad appeal to divers and snorkelers. Providing encounters with these graceful animals offers a potentially lucrative and sustainable alternative to harvest in many areas. As a result, tourism has developed around seasonal manta and mobula ray aggregations in many parts of the world1.

A survey of dive operators in manta ray range states reveals that manta rays are frequently the #1 attraction to divers and are consistently ranked in the top three of marine life that divers most often ask to see. These operations bring millions of dollars in tourism revenue annually to their local communities.

In Western Australia’s shallow Bateman Bay on Ningaloo Reef, visitors come on snorkeling tours more eager to see manta rays than whale sharks2. Surveys conducted in the Maldives indicated that tourists are willing to pay the highest surcharge to see manta rays, even more than for turtles or sharks3. In Mozambique, diving, particularly to see whale sharks and rays, motivated 74% of tourists to visit the country4.

The ‘Million Dollar Manta’ In Yap, where dive tourism is based almost exclusively on manta ray encounters, the annual value of manta ray dives is estimated to be US$4 million. With an estimated local population of 100 manta rays, each living an estimated 40+ years5, each of these manta rays is worth as much as US$ 1 million over its lifetime! A dead manta ray in a fish market, on the other hand, brings a one-time income of US$40–$500 depending on the manta’s size.

Based on data from only seven locations, the value of manta ray dive tourism is estimated at over US$27 million per year. These figures do not account for revenue generated in many popular diving locations in Mozambique, South Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Brazil, Japan, Solomon Islands, Azores, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Thailand. Global manta tourism may exceed US$50 million in direct dive-operation revenues annually, and with associated expenditures it may contribute as much as US$100 million. Additional opportunities exist globally for new tourism operations.

Manta ray tourism can provide ongoing sustainable income to communities for generations to come, while the gill raker trade represents short-term profits for a handful of foreign traders. Some poor fishing communities in India, the Philippines and Indonesia have shifted from hunting whale sharks to developing successful eco-tourism industries, changes that have revitalized these communities while also protecting these iconic animals. T he same opportunities exist for community-based tourism development centered on manta and mobula rays. Like whale sharks, manta and mobula rays offer significant tourism appeal, and present potentially large and sustainable financial benefits to coastal communities … if kept alive.

TABLE 5. INDUSTRY VALUES OF MANTA SPECIFIC ENCOUNTERS

LOCATION

SPECIES

ANNUAL REVENUE

Kona, Hawaii

Manta Sp.a

US$ 3.4 million6

Ningaloo, Australia

M. alfredi

US$ 1.8 million7

Nusa Penida, Indonesia

M. alfredi

US$ 3.5 million8

Palau

M. alfredi

US$ 2.25 million9

Republic of Maldives

Manta Sp.a

US$ 8.1 million10

Socorro, Mexico

M. birostris

US$ 5 million11

Yap

M. alfredi

US$ 4 million12

References & Resources

1 - Anderson et al. 2010.

2 - Daw and McGregor 2008.

3 - Waheed 1998.

4 - Tibirica et al. 2009.

5 - Marshall et al. 2011c

6 - Marshall et al. 2009, Notarbartolo DiSciara 1987.

7 - Compagno and Last 1999, Deakos 2010a

8 - Maigret and Ly 1986, Notarbartolo di Sciara and Hillyer 1989, Compagno and Last 1999

9 - Marshall et al. 2009

10 - Kashiwagi et al. 2011

11 - Marshall et al. 2009

12 - Marshall et al. 2009, Compagno 1999

 

Anderson, R.C., Adam, M.S., Kitchen-Wheeler, A., and Stevens, G. 2010. Extent and economic value of manta ray watching in Maldives. Tourism in Marine Environments, 7 (1): 15-27.

Compagno, L.J.V. and Last, P. 1999. Mobulidae. In: Capenter, K.E. and Niem, V.H. (eds), FAO species identification fuide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of the western Central Pacific (Volume 3. Batoid Fishes, Chimeras and Bony Fishes. Part 1 (Elopidae to Linophymidae)). Rome: FAO.

Daw, B., and McGregor, F. 2008. Management of Manta Ray (M.birostris) Interactive Tours in the Shallow Lagoonal Waters of Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia – A Global Benchmark for Tourism Interactions, Paper presented at the 2008 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, Montreal, Canada

Deakos, M.H. 2010a. Ecology and social behavior of a resident manta ray (Manta alfredi) population off Maui, Hawai’i. PhD thesis, University of Hawai’i, Manoa, Hawai’i.

Kashiwagi, T. Marshall, A. D., Bennett, M. B., and Ovenden, J. R. 2011. Habitat segregation and mosaic sympatry of the two species of manta ray in the Indian and Pacific Oceans: Manta alfredi and M. birostris. Marine Biodiversity Records: 1-8.

Maigret, J. and Ly, B. 1986.. Les poissons de mer de Mauritanie. Science Nat., Compiègne.

Marshall, A. D. 2009. Biology and population ecology of Manta birostris in southern Mozambique. PhD Thesis, University of Queensland

Marshall, A., Bennett, M.B., Kodja, G., Hinojosa-Alvarez, S., Galvan-Magana, F., Harding, M., Stevens, G. & Kashiwagi, T. 2011. Manta birostris. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>.

Notarbartolo di Sciara, G. 1987. A revisionary study of the genus Mobula Rafineque, 1810 (Chondrichthyes: Mobulidae) with the description of a new species. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 91: 1-91.

Notarbartolo di Sciara, G. and Hillyer, E.V. 1989. Mobulid rays off eastern Venezuela (Chnodrichthyes, Mobulidae). Copeia, 3: 607-614.

Tibirica, Y. Birtles, A. Valentine, P., and Miller, D.K. 2009. Diving tourism in Mozambique-An opportunity at risk. Proceedings of Congress on Coastal and Marine Tourism, Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, 12 pp.

Waheed, A. 1998. Economic value of ‘marine ecotourism’ in the Maldives. Bay of Bengal News, 12(2): 23.

Manta Diving Survey Respondents

Adventure Sports - Dive Gizo - Kerrie Kennedy

Bali Diving Academy Chloe Guillevic

Barra Lodge

Benguerra Lodge – Meg McDonald

Bikiliki Liveaboard – Sam Leeson

Castaway Island – Dawn Wakeham

Colombo Divers – Olivenzo, Dharshana Jayawardena

Divine Diving - Marij Aben

Fish 'n Fins Palau  - Tova Bornovski

Geko Dive - Liv Harding

Khao Lak Scuba Adventures - Natthaphon Chotmaneepithak

Kon-Tiki Phuket – Michael Wallentin

Koro Sun Dive

L’Aventure Divers - Rodney

Liquid Adventures - Cindy Acutt
Liquid Adventures Liveaboard - Linus Nylund

M/V OKTAVIA - Karin Lund Nielsen

Manta Ray Bay Resort – Bill Acker

Moana Cruises – Ingo Heitbrok

Mozdivers – Jon Wright

M/V Queen Scuba  - Mike Thomas

Nabucco Island Resort -  Evelyne

Oberhauser & Rainer Suhr

Nai’a Liveaboard – Alex Edwards

Nakia Resort & Dive -Julie Kelly, Aaron Mell

Namale Resort – Emosi Baravilala

Nautilus Explorer – Mike Lever

Papageno Resorts - Elisabeth

PapuaParadise EcoResort - Anett Hidvegi

Peri Peri Divers – Steve Counsel

Rani Resorts – Lindy Chazen

Raya Divers Co., Ltd., - Mika Eriksson

Reef Encounters, Japan - Doug Bennett

Sanbis Resort – Hans Mergozzi

Seadragon Dive Center – Alphons van Lieshout

Sea Fiji Travel – Scott Kukral

Sonaisali Island Resort – Koroi and Melyn

South Siam Divers Co.,Ltd. - Aoi

Thailand Dive and Sail - Ric Parker

True Blue Watersports – Cher Walker

Tofo Scuba – Nikki Pears

Tui Tai Liveaboard - Samuel Miles

West Side Water Sports – Fiona Caldwell

Wicked Diving – Paul Landgraver

World Wide Dive and Sail – Susie Erbe

www.palaumantarays.com - Jeanette Denby

Yap Pacific Dive Resort – Dieter Kudler