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February 2023    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 49, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Manta Populations Improve

from the February, 2023 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Manta Populations Improve

The oceanic manta ray population off the coast of Ecuador is now estimated to number 22,000, 10 times more than any other known sub-population of the species Mobula birostris. The giant manta is the world's largest ray, with wingspans reaching more than 18 feet. Populations are typically small and vulnerable to human impacts, but the Ecuadorian population is not only massive but potentially healthy (according to a 14-year study by Fundación Megafauna Marina del Ecuador).

Over a decade, populations of the reef manta (Mobula alfredi), which have a wingspan of up to five feet, have increased significantly in Indonesia's Raja Ampat archipelago, highlighting the importance of long-term conservation and management measures.

Edy Setyawan, of the University of Auckland, says, "Despite the global decline in oceanic sharks and rays because of overfishing, the reef manta rays in Raja Ampat have been recovering and thriving." In Dampier Strait, between 2009 and 2019, the estimated population increased to 317, an annual compound gain of 3.9 percent. South East Misool's estimated gain to 511 was 10.7 percent.

Today, an estimated 16,000 to 18,000 of the creatures may survive, with the Maldives hosting the most, at least 5,000 individuals, followed by Indonesia with at least 3,500. "Unfortunately, reef manta rays are generally in decline, as in Mozambique where they have been continuously caught in targeted fisheries, or just holding steady, as in Australia and the Maldives," says Setyawan.

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